The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

July 10, 2013

Fla. police officers entangled in sex scandal

(Continued)

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.

Womack wouldn't comment on the report or the scandal — a Lakeland Police spokeswoman said all comments are being made from City Hall. Womack was an outsider who had worked in Illinois and Texas when she became the department's chief in March 2011.

"Our hearts ache for Mrs. Sue Eberle and her family, the citizens of Lakeland, and all the families and children who have been affected by this tragedy," Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields wrote in a statement.

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