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Lakeland Police Department Sex Scandal: LPD Chief Lisa Womack takes tough questions from radio callers

1:00 PM, Jul 17, 2013   |    comments
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Facing the city commission for the first time since news broke of massive sexual misconduct at the Lakeland Police Department (LPD), Chief Lisa Womack said the agency is moving in the right direction toward rooting out all problems.
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Lakeland, Florida -- For an hour and a half, Lakeland's police chief faced tough questions about the sex scandal in her department.

Ten people have lost their jobs as reports surfaced of a sexual underground in the department.

Officers are accused of rape, sexual harassment, and poor police work. And it was all swept under the rug for more than a decade, until now.

10 News' cameras were there Wednesday morning as Chief Lisa Womack took calls live on a Lakeland morning radio show.

The Max Morning Show on Max 98.3 is usually a lot of fun. But Wednesday, the laughs were limited -- and the tough questions kept coming.

Womack listed for hosts Eric Michaels and Mike Lee the two most important things she says she's doing in the wake of the sex scandal.

It's keeping the public informed to maintain their trust, and following the law as she investigates. If she fails to follow the law, she's worried a fired employee could get their job back.

Some of the questions from callers: "I was wondering if she's worried about the Sheriff's [Office] coming in and taking over," one caller asked.

Her answer made it clear that handing things off to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is not an option.

"That's not something that has been discussed," Womack answered. "It's really not something that has been discussed internally with the city, with the City of Lakeland."

A panel of Lakeland leaders has been named to offer advice to the department. She said, "I am absolutely excited about it. Whether you're in crisis or not, you should always welcome the input."

Ten officers have been fired or resigned as part of recent misconduct investigations. A caller wanted to know, will that hurt police response?

Womack said they can handle the changes, but are already interviewing for new officers and planning several promotions to the rank of sergeant soon.

And one of the last callers asked: What can you do to keep this from happening again?

"One thing that we have to do is ensure that we set the right tone," Womack replied. "I think by holding people accountable, moving people on that don't need to be Lakeland Police officers."

"If they're going to tarnish the badge, then they're not going to be able to wear the badge."

The years of admitted sexual misconduct by several members of her department have gotten the attention, but Chief Womack said she's just as concerned with people who knew about this and didn't report it, and other workers who are accused of slacking off on police work.

That's why right now, Lakeland Police are reviewing 350 recent DUI arrests and every case that's set to go to court soon.

Despite all the heat, the chief said her office has gotten more calls and letters of support than condemnation. And callers to Max 98.3 on Wednesday morning generally offered that same vote of support.

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Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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