Lakeland police chief, state attorney to discuss scandal

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Lakeland's embattled police chief is set to have a face to face meeting with one of her harshest critics.

Lisa Womack and Polk County State Attorney Jerry Hill are scheduled to sit down together Friday to iron out some of their differences. Hill has very vocally criticized Lakeland's Police Department for deficiencies in officer training and for a highly publicized sex scandal involving 10 sworn officers and a female civilian employee.

In the meantime, there continue to be public outcries for the terminations of the officers named in the scandal, but Florida law protects against a rush to judgment.
 
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Nick Marolda is a Lakeland officer and president of the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association which represents officers, sergeants and lieutenants at LPD.

He says Florida Statute 112.532, also known as the Police Officer's Bill of Rights, guarantees officers' due process outlining their rights in an investigation.

"I don't think every single officer who's been named in this investigation needs to be terminated. I think it needs to be reviewed in a fair and proper way and have the chief of police make that determination," Marolda said.
 
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Lt. Hans Lehman heads the Lakeland Police unit that conducts internal affairs. He and his team are reviewing all the allegations in the sex scandal to determine what, if any, discipline is necessary for each officer named in the report.

"Once we have the facts and we interview a subject officer then we give it to the chain of command for them to make their decision," Lehman said.

An administrative review can take up to 180 days, and that timetable may be paused if the investigation has to be turned over to an outside agency like the State Attorney's Office. 
 
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Lakeland Police won't speculate how much longer their internal investigation may take, but officials within the department and the police union fully expects a variety of disciplinary actions to be necessary in this case.

"We've never stated that we would not think that discipline would be warranted in this case," Marolda said. "We are not against discipline if it's in a proper setting, and it's justified."

 


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