Florida officers under investigation for sex scandal

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LAKELAND, Florida (WFLA) – For the second week in a row, the Polk County State Attorney’s Office has fired off a letter to Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack, demanding change.

Last week, State Attorney Jerry Hill wrote a letter to the chief about a bra shaking incident during a traffic stop. This week, the letter is referring to an investigation into at least 10 sworn police officers.

Chief Womack requested the investigation after a long time employee reported engaging in sex acts or sexually suggestive behavior with the officers.

Hill said Wednesday that at the time the employee reported the behavior, Chief Womack was considering firing her. He did not say why.

Named in the complaint: Captain John Thomason, who was a spokesman for the department until last night, Lt. Al Wilson, Sgt. Russell Longaberger, Sgt. Bryan McNabb, Detective Rick Gries, Officers Scott Hutton, Loretta Jackson and George Vidal and former officers Stephen Sherman and Rawn Haynes.

Thomason, Wilson, Longaberger and McNabb are currently on paid administrative leave. The other officers involved have been reassigned.

City Manager Doug Thomas says the investigation revealed the officers either participated in the activity, or knew about it and didn’t tell anyone.

“Many of these individuals who claimed to have had direct knowledge of sexual encounters including consensual and alleged unwanted acts including sexting, posting of inappropriate photos, touching and sexual comments apparently failed to take or report any such actions to the Lakeland Police Department or appropriate city administrative personnel,” said Thomas.

Police Chief Lisa Womack also expressed disappointment.

“I demand professional, ethical and accountable behavior from all of my employees,” she said. “I am extremely disappointed.”

Chief Womack says the investigation is ongoing and those involved will be disciplined.

State Attorney Jerry Hill wrote in his letter to Chief Womack, “I cannot ignore the fact that several of the officers involved in this matter are high ranking officers in your department.”

He concluded the letter by writing, “I call on the City of Lakeland leaders to immediately take steps to provide Lakeland with law enforcement that is truly ‘committed to excellence.”

It’s been a tough two weeks for the police department. Officers have admitted to making women shake their bras out at traffic stops and having fellow officers sign blank arrest forms. 8-on-your-side also discovered cases that were dropped because judges said officers weren’t telling the truth.

“It’s very tough when you have a judge that says, “I find that they are untruthful, that they are lying, then it’s hard for us to vouch for their credibility,” Hill said.

Hill says it’s time for change at the police department, but it’s up to the citizens of Lakeland and city management to demand that change.

“Well, you’ve gotta quit compartmentalizing at some point and say, “This is the big picture of what we’re dealing with in Lakeland,” Hill said.

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