Scathing letter from Polk State Attorney Jerry Hill blasts Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack

11:10 PM, Sep 27, 2013   |    comments
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Video: State Attorney criticizes Lakeland PD response to scandals

Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack

 

 PDF Document: Letter to Thomas 9 27 13

Lakeland, FL -- A scathing letter and sharp words came from Polk State attorney Jerry Hill on Friday, and almost all of it was aimed squarely at Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack.

Hill's renewed criticism follows Thursday's arrest of a Lakeland police officer accused of sexual battery.

He compared the Lakeland Police department to a football team desperately in need of new coach, declining to call for Chief Lisa Womack's firing, but held no punches regarding how he feels about her leadership.

"The end result is that citizens can be at risk if the department is not properly run," said Hill.

Hill tied Thursday's arrest of Lakeland police officer Julio Pagan to a long list of ongoing problems at Lakeland PD.

Pagan, ordered held without bond during his first court appearance Friday, faces two counts of sexual battery and one count of stalking a Lakeland woman who called 911 to report it, and was assured an officer would be sent. 

See Also: 911 calls released in Lakeland police sex arrest

Instead, Hill says the operator giggled and mocked the alleged victim.

The 911 call, obtained by 10 News quotes the dispatcher speaking to a shift commander:

"A lady keeps saying that an officer keeps coming to her house and trying and trying to take her to go get beer so he can proposition her."

Both can then be heard laughing.

Still, no one was sent to the woman's home and the alleged victim was forced call back again three weeks later when Pagan returned to her home.

"Now folks, if that's not putting the public at risk. If that's not a simple failure to do your job, and if the leadership can't read that, then the citizens ought to be storming the walls," said Hill.

Hill also cited a 10 News report in July, where a group of Lakeland dispatchers visited Howl at the Moon bar in Orlando.

There, they were writing and posting lewd sexual messages at the height of the department's sex scandal investigation. But with no direct violation of policy, there was no discipline handed out.

"They'd be on the street looking for a job by five o'clock this afternoon. I don't know why we pussyfoot around with these issues when the evidence you need is quite clear," said Hill.

In a scathing letter to Lakeland city manager Doug Thomas, Hill wrote:

"The Lakeland police department under Chief Womack's leadership seems to be more of a threat than a protector of the public." 

READ: State attorney's letter (PDF)

Lakeland City Manager Doug Thomas and Mayor Gow Fields held a joint press conference to address Hill's letter and statements. Both were critical of Hill for dismissing due process and defended those who continue to serve within the city's police department.

"They will continue to do so with pride and dignity and they share my frustrations with those who have shamed the badge and shamed the department but I assure you the feedback we received from them they are as disappointed as I am with those who have done these wrongdoings and affected the department and community but they are ready to stand tall and ready to continue to serve the needs of this community," said Thomas.

"There's some things that needed to be uncovered and uprooted at LPD and corrected and we're going through that process and some may be embarrassed by what we found but that's just a process that we're going to have to work through," said Fields.

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