A major sex scandal is unraveling at the Lakeland Police Department. FOX 13 has obtained a report from the state attorney's office that details a near-three-month investigation into sexual allegations that stretch back as far as 2005.
Investigators say, over a seven-year period, at least 10 officers in the police department were engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior -- sometimes while on-duty -- with a female city employee.
Five of them are supervisors and ranked members of the Lakeland Police Department.
The female employee -- a married mother of two -- told investigators that most of the encounters were consensual, but some were against her will. The state attorney's office says some of the officers have confessed to the allegations.
"Do I feel like this is a case of them not being able to trust me? No, I feel quite the opposite," Chief Lisa Womack said at a press conference Wednesday morning. "This was brought forward over my watch, and actually though it's unfortunate we have to deal with it, no I actually think it's the opposite – that I was the one it was brought to finally."
The encounters happened at various locations, including the police department, city buildings and even police vehicles, according to the 59-page report.
However, no criminal charges will be filed because of the length of time since some of the alleged encounters and the lack of any preserved physical evidence, the state attorney's report stated.
"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," the report concluded.
The city and police department held its press conference Wednesday morning, with both Womack and City manager Doug Thomas speaking to reporters.
"I'm saddened and surprised that many of the individuals in the investigation include several well-known personnel in the Lakeland Police Department, Lakeland Fire Department and other city positions," Thomas said. "I'm extremely disappointed in the alleged behavior that will undoubtedly tarnish not only their personal and family reputations, but also that of the entire municipal workforce who faithfully serve the public with dedication and pride throughout their careers."
Some of the officers involved are on administrative leave; others are still working in different capacities. The department is going through its own investigation, and it could take months to sort everything out.
Perhaps no one is more outspoken than the man in charge of the investigation that uncovered the alleged sexual improprieties, State Attorney Jerry Hill.
The sex scandal is just the latest bomb to hit the department in recent weeks.
"You gotta stop compartmentalizing and say at some point and say this is the big picture of what we're dealing with in Lakeland. If the Lakeland (city) manager and commissioners are happy with that, so be it," Hill said.
It seems Hill is not. It appears that he stopped just short of saying the Lakeland Police Department needs a new chief.
"The man that hired her has to take an objective look at this thing," Hill said. "If he is not willing to do that, there is not going to be a change."
Chief Lisa Womack is defending herself and her department.
"There is not a culture of corruption here," she said. "There is a culture of professionalism, and we are doing everything that we can . Every time something has been brought to my attention, it has been dealt with appropriately, and this will be too."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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