The Ceres Police Department and its chief are under fire after allegations of harassment and secret video recordings are detailed in a complaint.
The claim comes from two women who have worked in the department. One a former spokeswoman and executive assistant, the other a current crime scene technician. Both claim male officers took video of them in secret.
Gender harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, and retaliation — are all part of newly filed complaint against the Ceres Police Department and its chief.
“The level of maliciousness in which he engaged in this, thinking that this was some funny joke was really inappropriate,” Stan Casper, the women’s attorney told FOX40 on Thursday.
Former PD Spokeswoman Carissa Higginbotham claimed that on October of 2013 former Officer Coey Henson placed his phone on the floor, hit record and baited her in.
“Which she did at which point she realized that she had been set up for this upskirting incident,” Higginbotham said.
The claim stated that Henson then showed other employees the video he captured and at various times — that Henson had harassed Higginbotham for her relationship with her wife. We reached out the the City of Ceres and the Police Department. City Manager Toby Wells said they cannot comment on pending litigation.
“I think, most importantly, they want the city to take claims of gender harassment and discrimination seriously,” Casper said.
Fast forward to May 2014 when Crime Scene Technician Alexandra Warner found a department issued surveillance camera in her private office.
“Male members of her department know she regularly changes out of her clothes to do workouts.” Casper, who is based in Walnut Creek, explained that they found about a month of footage of Warner, sitting at her desk, unaware of the fact that she was being recorded. He added that to this day, they have not found footage of her undressed. “(It) was placed there with the blessing of every male that was in her unit,” the attorney alleges.
The complaint also alleges Chief Smith of retaliation after Warner and Higginbotham’s complaints were filed. They quote Smith as saying — “that Higginbotham needed to toughen up because inappropriate conversations take place at the Department all the time.”
Officer Henson was terminated shortly after Higginbotham filed a complaint with the department but she claimed the Chief sided with Henson and made her very aware of the fact. “Chief Smith was a harasser himself with the many comments that he made to my clients.”
Warner still works for the department and Casper said both she and Higginbotham are looking for a better work environment, not just for themselves but for future women of the Ceres Police Force. “She wants to be protected and not be continually retaliated against or marginalized.”
The city has 30 days to respond to the complaint. We called the Ceres Police Department for comment as well. They referred us to the city manager’s office which is not commenting.