Spirit Lake police chief faces harassment charge - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Spirit Lake police chief faces harassment charge

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Posted: Saturday, July 7, 2012 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - A former Spirit Lake Police officer claims she was sexually harassed by the police chief.

Crystal Sudol filed a notice of tort claim against police chief Patrick Lawless and the city of Spirit Lake May 15 that seeks $5 million on grounds that the chief created a "hostile working environment for females in the police department, and did harass, batter and assault (Sudol) while she was employed," according to the claim.

The claim states that Spirit Lake should have known Lawless "had a proclivity to sexually harass female employees with whom he came into contact."

It also states that Spirit Lake Mayor Todd Clary "failed to take swift and appropriate" action against Lawless when it investigated complaints of misconduct in the police department because of a friendship between the two officials.

Clary's disciplinary actions following the investigation "amounted to no more than a slap on the wrist," according to the claim that cites Idaho Human Rights Act and national civil rights violations.

Clary, a former city councilman, was elected mayor in 2009, the same year Lawless was appointed chief of police. Lawless was hired by Spirit Lake in January 2007 and was promoted to patrol sergeant seven months later, according to a Press article after his 2009 promotion. Lawless has performed police work since 1996, previously working in Connecticut.

Lawless told The Press in a phone interview Friday that he had just learned of the tort claim, and that he couldn't comment on pending litigation. Spirit Lake attorney Nancy Stricklin said she couldn't comment on personnel matters, either.

"I can't make any comment. I'd like to, but ... I really can't say too much about it," Lawless said.

He said he hadn't heard if his work schedule would be affected by the pending litigation, but he expected to work on Monday.

The tort claim isn't the only complaint against Lawless.

Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug said Friday his department is currently investigating a complaint against Lawless on an unrelated matter. Haug said Post Falls police have been investigating it for three weeks, but couldn't elaborate on details other than the investigation should be completed in the next seven days.

"We're investigating a case that he is involved in," Haug said. "I can confirm that it's not related to the tort claim that was just filed."

Sudol graduated in November 2011 from the law enforcement program at North Idaho College, according to graduation records. She attended through the Spirit Lake Police Department at the time. The tort complaint states she was "constructively discharged from her position of employment."

In a complaint rebuttal provided by her attorney, Larry Beck, Sudol claims the alleged discrimination which included inappropriate touching and sexual remarks from the police chief took place beginning March 2011.

"The daily statements made to (Sudol) throughout her employment were sexual, offensive, unwelcome, severe and pervasive. They did alter her conditions of employment, as no employee (let alone a new recruit) should ever have to undergo such discrimination," that report states.

Clary did not return messages Friday.

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  • Rogue Cop posted at 12:34 pm on Thu, Jul 12, 2012.

    Rogue Cop Posts: 2371

    If someone intentionally leaves a loaded firearm in a place where minors have access to it, that would be a crime or if because of gross negligence a minor obtains a loaded firearm and uses it, then then the negligent adult can be charged...but the key is intentional vs. accidental vs. negligence - civilian or sworn officer.

    I'm not defending the bafoon who "lost" the firearm. I'm merely stating what the law is relevant to policy violations vs criminal violations.

    And BTW, it's irrelevant as it relates to the Spirit Lake Police Chief story.

  • NoName posted at 6:55 am on Thu, Jul 12, 2012.

    NoName Posts: 253

    Rogue..... I'm asking you, not telling..... isn't against the law to leave a loaded gun, unattended, in a very, very public place? If a civilian left his/her loaded gun in the same way as the ISP officer, would there not be charges of some kind?

  • Rogue Cop posted at 3:26 pm on Wed, Jul 11, 2012.

    Rogue Cop Posts: 2371

    Well, floorist has had over 24 hours to answer and as usual he fades away with a strategic exit.

  • Rogue Cop posted at 12:20 pm on Tue, Jul 10, 2012.

    Rogue Cop Posts: 2371

    Floorist...as usual, you don't have a clue about whom or what you speak. If you think you know who I am, post my name!

    Well, do you punk?

  • the floorist posted at 9:12 am on Tue, Jul 10, 2012.

    the floorist Posts: 331

    "...If it's strictly a policy violation (personnel matter) the officer could have been fired, demoted, suspended or otherwise disciplined and it's kept confidential...that's the law. If the agency released the information publicly they could be sued...." RC

    Like your bad back, you mean?

  • Sport Mom posted at 10:28 pm on Mon, Jul 9, 2012.

    Sport Mom Posts: 5

    It is certainly suspicious that she would wait until getting fired and being denied any compensation to make these allogations. ISP, yes it sounds perfectly clear that they would do something of the sort but Spirit Lake Chief, I dont think so..... Look at the news in the last year, ISP should have alot of explaining to do. I guess if a child would have picked up the gun and it accidently went off there might be something done about it but I guess its ok because the officer just "lost" it. (said the officer when it was turned in). I say she should go back to school for another profession, doesnt look like this is her calling....

  • Rogue Cop posted at 11:57 am on Mon, Jul 9, 2012.

    Rogue Cop Posts: 2371

    NoName: The ISP lost gun fiasco was not a criminal allegation so the findings of the investigation are legally not publicized. If it's strictly a policy violation (personnel matter) the officer could have been fired, demoted, suspended or otherwise disciplined and it's kept confidential...that's the law. If the agency released the information publicly they could be sued.

  • capnbutch posted at 6:22 am on Mon, Jul 9, 2012.

    capnbutch Posts: 729

    I am fascinated by the fact that you cannot complain about a boss and get results unless you make a sexual allegation. Then the boss, in practical terms, is allowed no defense.

    You don't actually have to state your complaint if you don't want and you can require that your identity be kept secret from all. The existence of your complaint alone suffices.

    It is not a particularly fair system for anybody but is sure works quickly and smoothly.

  • NoName posted at 10:39 pm on Sat, Jul 7, 2012.

    NoName Posts: 253

    Rogue......yes indeed. I did say "claim." Do you know what happened in the ISP drive-through event? That was months ago, can't still be trying to figure that one out......

  • Rogue Cop posted at 11:34 am on Sat, Jul 7, 2012.

    Rogue Cop Posts: 2371

    NoName: The operative word being "CLAIM"...not "proof" or "guilty". Interestingly, she waited till she was fired and THEN filed her "CLAIM".

    I'll wait till I hear or read the evidence.

  • NoName posted at 7:42 am on Sat, Jul 7, 2012.

    NoName Posts: 253

    Wait, what!?!? More claims of abuse from another local Mayberry PD. No way..... Hey, what happened to the ISP officer that left his gun in the drive-through? Promoted most likely.

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