Exclusive: More unflattering images for Lakeland PD | News
Lakeland, FL -- It's another potential embarrassment for Lakeland Police.
Despite assurances that issues within the department are being addressed, don't expect to see anyone getting disciplined for this latest incident.
The department, already rocked by a sex scandal and state investigation, is now answering questions about photographs taken at an Orlando bar back in the first weekend of June.
The questionable photos were posted by city employees on their Facebook pages during and after a night at a bar called "Howl at the Moon."
The photos, obtained by 10 News, were taken just over a month ago, and brought to the attention of the department's 911 communications director Bill LePere almost immediately by a concerned colleague.
"Within 48 hours," said LePere. "I see this as perhaps poor taste within a group of employees who do an awful stressful job."
The Facebook snapshots include images from what appear to be a going-away party for a fellow dispatcher. At 'Howl at the Moon,' whoever tops the tip-jar gets to publicly post a message on the wall for everyone else to see.
In the pictures, you can see that at $30 the sign reads: "911 dispatchers make cops ***."
At $45 it adds "911 dispatchers do it all night long."
And at $50 it reads "911 dispatchers sleep with anyone we want and get what we want from them all night long."
Chief Lisa Womack recently told city leaders and the public that she inherited the mess at Lakeland PD and was cleaning it up. That included, she said, a strict social media policy.
"So that we would make sure that our employees know that if they were going to engage in social media, Facebooking or whatever, that they do so in a matter that was consistent with the values of the police department," said the Chief when asked about it a week ago.
Yet LePere, internal investigators and the Chief all concluded no formal discipline would be handed out, because the messages don't specifically mentioned Lakeland PD, and the employees never ID themselves as working for the department.
"I think it is a gross miscarriage of justice to think that there is a nexus between these pictures and the other misconduct that's being investigated thoroughly by this department," added LePere.
But that's not the way city commissioner Howard Wiggs sees it. "We have a cultural problem," said Wiggs, a mayoral candidate.
Wiggs says this sort of behavior, even as the department was being investigated, only supports assertions that Lakeland PD has bigger issues. He called the decision not to discipline anyone in this case, a "disappointment."
"I would think that even if you did have that belief that there's no fundamental rule that had been violated, that you'd want to set a much higher example than that," said Wiggs.
Officials say they couldn't order the employees to remove the postings, but that they've since discussed it as being in poor taste and that a short time later, the pictures and comments were voluntarily removed.
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