The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

July 10, 2013

Fla. police officers entangled in sex scandal

(Continued)

Legislative leaders are furious and have asked Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to help get the department on track.

"We find the State Attorney's report on the behavior of the LPD officials to be shocking, revolting and a clear cause for action," wrote Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland. "A culture which, at best lacks professionalism and at worst encourages the reckless behavior of LDP officials, is apparently pervasive and is an embarrassment to our community. This culture has unfortunately eroded the public's confidence in the Lakeland Police Department."

Eberle, through her attorney and in the state attorney's report, said she was unable to fend off the sexual advances because she has been a victim of sexual assault in the past. Initially, she didn't want to speak with investigators — she balked at turning over her phone with text messages and photos, saying that it would hurt the officers' families — but later decided to cooperate because she felt victimized and abandoned by the department.

Eberle also confided in a female officer friend, who initially doubted the stories until Eberle showed her some of the text messages and photos she had received from other officers. The friend told Hill that she thought Eberle's desire to please, inability to say no and sexual promiscuity made her a target.

While seven officers admitted to having sexual contact with Eberle, three other sergeants denied her claims and refused to take polygraph tests; Hill said he questioned the credibility of those sergeants.

The report also said that other employees knew about the encounters and didn't report it to higher-ups.

The state attorney said he couldn't prosecute the cases because of a lack of physical evidence and because so much time has passed since some of the sexual encounters. However, Fields said the officers and employees involved are under an internal investigation and will be "disciplined to the fullest extent" if found to have acted inappropriately.

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