A lawsuit filed by a longtime police dispatcher paints a picture of the Gilroy Police Department involved in sex parties, harassment and even alleged sex with underage members of the youth explorer program.
Patricia Harrell, a 27-year veteran police dispatcher, is suing the City of Gilroy, its police department and the police union. She claims she was fired for speaking up about a department culture of alleged sexual misconduct, promiscuity and harassment.
"She was essentially black-balled and eventually pushed out," said Lori Costanzo, Harrell's attorney.
The 90-page lawsuit cites names and incidents, including officers having sex with underage members of the police explorers.
Legal analyst Steven Clark compares the situation to the underage prostitution scandal that rocked the Oakland Police Department in terms of public trust.
"It's something that the public now has recognized can happen," Clark said. "So I think the fact there is precedence in other public agencies like this suggests it's all the more important to get to the bottom of these allegations involving Gilroy PD."
Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco said the city is monitoring the situation and pointed out while the allegations are disturbing, they are still not proven and just one side of the story.
Officials have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.
The District Attorney's Office said it is aware of the allegations, but has not received any report from the police department, which it needs to take any criminal action.
The City of Gilroy issued the following statement late Thursday:
Recently the City of Gilroy was served with a lawsuit from a former city employee of the Gilroy Police Department. The allegations mentioned in the lawsuit are simply allegations until fully addressed in a court of law. The City takes this lawsuit very seriously.
The Gilroy Police Department is a professional law enforcement department and holds itself to a high standard of integrity. We understand the public holds the Gilroy Police Department to this high standard as well.
“This matter has to be dealt with through the legal process in a court of law.” said Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco, “The City Council and I will continue to monitor this lawsuit closely. I have full confidence in the men and women of the Gilroy Police Department to continue to do their duty and serve the people of Gilroy as they always have”.
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee stated, “The Gilroy Police Department is full of caring and dedicated public servants. I am proud of our strong history of community service and keeping the public safe. We are determined to maintain our focus on serving the community in a professional and ethical manner.”