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Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack releases statement on sex scandal investigation

9:50 PM, Jul 16, 2013   |    comments
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-- The investigation into a sex scandal that recently rocked the Lakeland Police Department has resulted in their loss of nine sworn officers and one civilian employee so far, Police Chief Lisa Womack said in an official statement Tuesday night. 

Some of the employees were terminated, like Sergeants Rusty Longaberger and David Woolverton as recently as Monday, while others, like Lieutenant Al Wilson and Officer George Vidal, resigned in the wake of the investigation. 

The department's long-time captain, John Thomason, also resigned after reportedly admitting to photographing his genitals on a phone that belonged to the woman at the center of the scandal, 37-year-old Sue Eberle. 

According to Chief Womack, LPD plans to wrap up their investigation within the next four weeks, but in the meantime, the public can expect to see more disciplinary actions.

The sexual misconduct scandal involves nearly a dozen officers after Eberle, a civilian crime analyst, detailed affairs with the men in police and fire stations, patrol cars, motels, and even in a parking lot after a memorial service for a slain officer.

Chief Womack's statement also addressed DUI cases now in question, and the department's overall plan to restore locals' faith in the Lakeland Police Department. 

Read Police Chief Womack's entire statement below:

"I believe in our department and I have full confidence that our internal affairs processes are working. In fact, this process has resulted in nine sworn officers and one civilian employee which are no longer members of this Department. We plan to have our internal investigation concluded within the next four weeks. The community is seeing results and we are holding those that disgraced the Lakeland Police Department accountable. The community will see additional disciplinary actions as the internal investigations are brought to a conclusion. As we move forward, Assistant Chief Mike Link will be overseeing our Office of Professional Standards which is conducting the Department's internal investigation.

In a meeting with the State Attorney Jerry Hill last week, we discussed some concerns regarding DUI cases. I have already addressed the issues and I have called for an audit of every DUI case over the past year. I also instituted a process that has a supervisor reviewing all case files set for court to ensure that everything is in order for proper prosecution purposes. 

We are working together to restore the community's faith in the Police Department.  The City Commission has scheduled a public meeting at The Lakeland Center's Youkey Theatre on Monday, July 22, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. to allow the citizens of Lakeland the opportunity to address their concerns about the issues facing the Lakeland Police Department.

A Police Advisory Commission has also been formed that is co-chaired by Joe P. Ruthven and Polk State College President Eileen Holden.  This panel of leading Lakeland citizens has been charged with reviewing the current situation with LPD and to develop recommendations for making cultural improvements to support accountability.  The Lakeland Police Department welcomes the efforts of these individuals and we look forward to working with them as they carry out their task."

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