Changes are coming to the Lakeland Police Department, possibly as soon as next week, a city spokesperson said Wednesday in response to repeated calls for action.
This follows a series of recent scandals surrounding the department.
Lakeland communications director Kevin Cook said the internal investigation is ongoing and stressed the need to allow the process to run its course.
"We ask that our citizens show a little bit of patience with us," Cook said. "I know it's hard to do because people want immediate action, but unfortunately, because of Florida Statute 112 and the Police Officers Bill of Rights, we have to follow the process, which is due process."
Earlier in the day, the woman at the center of a major sex scandal that rocked the department, Sue Eberle, held a news conference. She sat with her husband. She didn't speak.
Her attorney, David Linesch, discussed how his client has said 10 officers, some high-ranking, coerced her into having sex and committed other forms of inappropriate sexual behavior.
"Sue Eberle was forced to work in an environment rife with sexual innuendo, sexual proposition, sexual advances and unwelcomed sexual assault and battery," said Linesch, who sent a letter to the mayor and city attorney Wednesday detailing the allegations, while calling on city and department leaders to sit down with him and Eberle to come to a resolution. "The city, the police department have an opportunity to not victimize Sue and [her husband] another time by sitting down in good faith."
But Cook said a sit-down isn't possible at this point.
"There are a lot of allegations made in that letter [from Linesch]. Of course, our legal team would need to review those allegations," he said. "We have to base things on fact and our internal investigation will conclude with facts, and we'll base our decisions on those."
Linesch said he filed sexual harassment charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations; he wouldn't rule out filing a lawsuit if he doesn't feel the city has handled the situation properly.
The news conference involving Eberle and Linesch came a day after a Polk County delegation of elected officials sent a letter to Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields, asking for immediate action in light of this alleged sex scandal, and other incidents including one in which an officer made a woman shake out her bra during a traffic stop.
"To sit and wait for all the facts and details and everything to come together is just not going to be acceptable because we have to restore public confidence now," said Sen. Kelli Stargel, who was among the eight delegates who co-signed a letter, which even suggested Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd get involved. "There's a culture of unprofessionalism that's happening around the Lakeland Police Department. It's not one or two or three people. It's much more pervasive than that."
Cook said the time will come for action, but now is not the time.
"If we don't follow the due process and say if we fire people now, they could be reinstated and that's something we don't want," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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