Why did Lakeland PD's sex scandal go on so long? - WFLA News Channel 8

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Why did Lakeland PD's sex scandal go on so long?

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The Police Advisory Commission digging into problems at the Lakeland Police Department wants to know why a sex scandal could go on for so long and upper-brass not know about it.

"How could this happen and how could they have not known," asked Commission Chairman Bruce Abels.

The question came during the second meeting of the Lakeland Police Advisory Commission. It was directed to Assistant Chief Larry Giddens, who was standing in for Chief Lisa Womack. She was out of town Friday as the department seeks accreditation.

The questions stem from the case of Sue Eberle, a civilian employee who said she had relationships with various city employees for more than a decade.

"You have to look at each person. They're responsible for their own ethical and moral responsibilities or the way that they carry on their individual lifestyles," Giddens said. "Why didn't we know? That's hard to say, sir. I haven't heard anybody give a good answer to that yet."

Giddens says as soon as the chief learned of the scandal surrounding Eberle in her pre-disciplinary hearings, she began to dig into the problem.

"The Chief took quick action. Quick and decisive action," Giddens said. "She immediately got a hold of FDLE and got the ball rolling."

The chairman of the commission, Bruce Abels, said the roll of the panel will not be to critique someone's job performance.

"It is amazing that it took that long for it to surface but, in fairness to the chief, Miss Eberle identified relationships or situations going back 12 or 13 years," Abels said."Lakeland is relatively small town but it used to be even smaller and I'm astonished that the word didn't get around."

Abels said he's starting to envision that the mission of the commission could be to develop proactive steps for the future to keep problems from festering: Developing a periodic survey on values and attitudes, suggesting a different way of reporting and handling citizen complaints, or creating some sort of hotline people can report a concern.

"We are going to go where the facts and information takes us," Abels told reporters after the meeting. "It's not our roll to do a job performance evaluation of the chief or city manager. So far, what I've seen, the chief and city manager have been very, very forthcoming."

"I have no idea if we are ever going to arrive at a point where we would be prepared that someone specifically failed here. I think this is a cultural breakdown."

The 9-person board will dig deeper each week to find out how it started and will make recommendations to the mayor within 60 to 90 days. The next meeting is Thursday at 3:00 p.m. at Lakeland City Hall.

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