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Police officers in Lakeland, Fla. entangled in sex scandal

lakelandgov.net/lpd via CBS Miami
(AP) LAKELAND, Fla. - Authorities are investigating a widespread sex scandal involving nearly a dozen police officers in the central  Florida city of Lakeland, after a civilian crime analyst detailed trysts with the men in police and fire stations, patrol cars, motels and even in a parking lot after a memorial service for a slain officer.

Sue Eberle, 37, has told officials that she had consensual and also sometimes coerced sex with the officers and a firefighter, and that she once was propositioned by a city worker in Lakeland. Eberle's accounts of the liaisons were largely corroborated by her sexual partners and others within the police department, and published in a graphic, 59-page report written in an incredulous tone by the county's top prosecutor. It said the department's problems investigating crimes might be caused by some high-ranking officers being more interested in having sex with Eberle than doing their jobs.

"The investigation revealed an extraordinary amount of sexual conduct that was committed both on-duty and off-duty," wrote Jerry Hill, Polk County's state attorney, in the report dated June 25. "We find the conduct of a number of sworn officers, including some officers of rank, to be at best a waste of taxpayer dollars. At worst their actions indicate a moral bankruptcy that exists amongst some individuals within the ranks at the Lakeland Police Department."

Eberle, who has retained an attorney, recounted for Hill how she had sex in police cars, cemeteries and motels with different officers -- and in the parking lot outside a reception that followed the December 2011 funeral of Officer Arnulfo Crispin, who had been fatally shot on duty. She also said officers and some supervisors pressured her for sex, groped her while working and texted her photos of their genitalia.

"She was a target. She was weak. And they knew that they could take advantage of that, so they preyed upon her. They preyed upon her, and that's what's so sick about it," Eberle's attorney, David Linesch, said during a recent news conference.

Linesch's spokeswoman said Eberle is not granting interviews at this time. The Associated Press typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault. However, Eberle has gone public with her story, appearing alongside her attorney and husband at a recent news conference about the allegations.

Eberle, a married mother of two, is on paid administrative leave. Three city employees have resigned, and others -- such as the former assistant chief of the department -- have retired. Five other officers have been placed on either administrative leave or modified duty.

The scandal has stunned folks in Lakeland, a city of almost 100,000 people halfway between Tampa and Orlando.

"It's been devastating for the community," said Ellen Simms, who owns a framing shop in the city's historic downtown. "The actions of a few are tarnishing the reputation of a good department. It's heartbreaking."

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, while Hill's office spent three months interviewing participants and witnesses. In his report addressed to Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack, Hill also drew parallels between the sex scandal and other "shortcomings" within the department, including recent problems with traffic stops, searches and investigations that have been detailed in The Ledger, Lakeland's newspaper.

"Had these members of your department been more focused on the important responsibilities of law enforcement, rather than pursuing sexual encounters with a civilian analyst, LPD might not be in the condition it is today," Hill wrote.


  • Crimesider Staff

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