Lakeland leaders react to memo urging change after bra search

6:13 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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Lakeland, Florida -- From an off-duty officer caught on camera in a fight, to an FDLE investigation alleging misconduct, the Lakeland Police Department has had its share of controversy over the last few months.

See also: Off-duty Lakeland cop arrested for battery

That's why news that an officer made a woman shake her bra in a search for drugs has generated a conversation about communication within the police department and the city.

"If we want our police officers to follow the law, then elected officials must also set a good example following the law," says Mayor Gow Fields.

Raw video: Police tell woman to lift shirt, shake bra during stop

Amid a memo from City Commissioner Howard Wiggs to make the LPD investigative process more urgent and open to the public, Mayor Fields points to state statute, particularly a section often referred to as the Police Officers' Bill of Rights. It very specifically lays out rules for how officers accused of misconduct will be questioned. The bill of rights allows for one interrogator, and a three or five person panel as opposed to public proceedings.

"We do have a city commissioner who's asked us to share more communication on some of the processes that are taking place," acknowledges Kevin Cook, director of communications with the City of Lakeland. "Whatever communications that we can improve, we will, but there's also some stipulations that are state mandated."

The letter from Wiggs, who will also be running for Mayor this year, says the response to LPD problems "is a serious issue and has the potential to erode LPD's credibility in the community," which, he says isn't fair to hardworking, dedicated officers and staff within the department.

See also: Will controversial bra-shaking searches continue?

"I think we need to get in a group as a city commission and the city management staff and team, and talk about what the problem is," Wiggs told 10 News over the weekend. "Is it a communication problem? Is it a training problem? Is it a leadership problem?"

Fields says the issue will probably be discussed at the next regular city commission meeting, but he doesn't anticipate calling a special public meeting outside of a one-on-one briefing with city leaders.

He notes that he's not calling for the firing or resignation of Police Chief Lisa Womack, but writes in the memo, "Do we have the necessary leadership at the head of our department: the chief?"

LPD would not comment on the memo.

READ Chief Womack's previous statement here

"I think it's important for everyone to understand that each time any of the various instances occurred, once it was brought to the chief's attention, or we were made aware of it, the chief immediately opened the appropriate investigation so that we could get to the bottom of it," says Fields. 

According to Cook, a meeting was scheduled for Monday with Womack and city management to determine what they can compile for the city commission.

Follow 10 News Reporter Ashley Porter on twitter @ashleyreporter

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