Harassment Complaints Aired Before City Council

Lincoln, NE (December 12, 2021)  An long simmering issue facing the Lincoln Police Department boiled over before the City Council Monday.  Former Officer Sarah Williams said nothing was done about a sexual harassment complaint she filed, and that she believes the police department culture needs to change.

“Sexual harassment and discrimination at the Lincoln Police Department was, and is, pervasive.  Two female officers that I’m aware of have been sexually assaulted by male officers.”

Williams told the council that she was sexually harassed and then complained to department officials.

“I told the EEO Sergeant, I told the Internal Affairs Sergeant, I told a Captain who told the Chief.  I then had a meeting with the Chief, complete with an agenda, with the heading ‘Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination.’  Nothing changed, and I was retaliated against.”

Williams aske the Council to see that the culture of LPD is changed.

“You are the last entity, that I am aware of, that has the power to insure the culture at LPD changes, that Command Staff is held responsible, that the perpetrators will be held accountable, and that female officers will finally be respected and be treated as equals to their peers.”

The Council agenda included receiving a report regarding a settlement agreement on Williams’ lawsuit against the Department.  It was accepted as part of the Consent Agenda without a vote or comment.

Following the Council meeting, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and Police Chief Teresa Ewins both issued statements regarding Williams’ charges.

The Mayor said:

”  My administration is committed to responding to allegations of any wrongdoing within our organization, while ensuring that all employees are held accountable for their job performance. Complaints are taken seriously not only because it is the right thing to do, but because we value having a team that is operating cohesively and effectively to serve our community. ”

The Police Chief said:

“The City of Lincoln and LPD do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. We have strong anti-discrimination policies and have made extensive efforts to foster an inclusive and safe workplace. We take all complaints, external or internal, seriously.

LPD has a multi-layered process for examining complaints of harassment or discrimination with either internal resources or external referrals available dependent on the employee’s preference. The employee can select the primary investigating authority to include the LPD  Equal Opportunity Officer, the City Equal Opportunity Officer, the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission, or the Federal Equal Opportunity Commission. All complaints and allegations are examined and investigated if appropriate, and the proper action taken if violations of our policies, procedures, or the law are found.

We want to be as transparent as possible in these processes, while recognizing that we owe an obligation to our employees to keep their complaints confidential. It is each employee’s right to initiate a public lawsuit and until such time, the City will not disclose any details about the specific allegations or who has lodged them. As a City, we have promptly investigated each complaint and taken appropriate action.”

Williams also complained to the Council that the Mayor had recently made changes in the complaint procedure.  City Attorney Yohance Christie responded:

“The opportunity to make complaints actually has been strengthened by placing the process solely within the Human Resources Department. Previously, the Law Department could be responsible for reviewing and investigating internal allegations of discrimination while also fulfilling its role to defend the City against any lawsuits. The new process will provide for a thorough examination of all the issues and removes any possibility of a conflict of interest.”

The City of Lincoln and LPD are equal opportunity employers.  We continuously work toward creating an environment where all of our employees feel safe. We seek to provide a positive workplace environment for all employees. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect.