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Investigator: Fife police lieutenant dropped ball on sexual harassment claims

Post by Steve Maynard / The News Tribune on May 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
May 3, 2011 5:07 pm

A Fife police lieutenant violated city policies by not following through on a subordinate employee’s complaints that she was the victim of an increasingly aggressive pattern of sexual harassment by a police officer over nearly a decade, an investigator working for the city concluded.

The woman said the officer regularly showed her pornographic pictures on his cell phone, exposed himself and masturbated in front of her in various places on the job, including in an office and the jury room, according to the investigator’s report.

The woman said she went along with some of the activity, according to the report, which notes one instance of consensual intercourse in the weight room. She decided to report the behavior to a supervisor after the officer’s overtures became more aggressive, such as asking to come to her house, the document states.

The investigation of Lt. Doug Burrus – released to The News Tribune this morning – determined that Burrus failed to report the alleged victim’s concerns when she shared them with him in 2009, that he did not immediately report his involvement in the matter when an investigation began last November, and that he was not forthcoming during his interview, according to the report by Beth Kennar, who works for the Seattle-based Summit Law Group.

Burrus said the woman told him only about the pornographic pictures, but he didn’t report them because she insisted the matter be kept confidential, the report said; she just wanted the conduct to stop. But city policy spells out that supervisors must immediately report up the chain of command when confronted with a harassment complaint.

Burrus has worked for Fife police for 17 years, according to the city’s website.

The Burrus investigation is one of three that The News Tribune has requested involving Fife police officers.

As recently as Monday, city officials said they were planning to release the investigation of the unnamed officer whom the female employee accused of sexual misconduct; they said they planned to release it Tuesday.

But this morning, at the same time officials released the Burrus document, they said their investigation of the police officer was exempt from disclosure because “the allegations of misconduct were not substantiated.” The officer resigned from the force in January.

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