This weekend the Washington Post picked up on a story we reported on a couple of weeks ago regarding the most recent complaints filed against Haymarket Police Chief James T. Roop. The story fleshes out the current scandal a bit more, demonstrating how the Chief and one of his Sergeants are alleged to have verbally abused a seventeen year old girl — a crime victim, no less — who had originally come to the police for assistance. With mounting charges of sexual harassment by the Chief and senior members of his department starting to show up in the mainstream media, Mayor Pam Stutz can’t afford to provide cover for the ongoing and frequent controversies in which the police department seems to generate without risking a major backlash against her administration. At some point the outrages should generate a groundswell of public disgust, and this incident could well be the final straw for Haymarket residents. Perhaps it should.
The article, which for some reason never showed up online, has been transcribed by the good folks at townofhaymarket.info:
Haymarket Police Chief James T. Roop wrote a letter to the public about a year ago asking whether people wanted a professional police department with a good reputation or “a soap opera.”
If recent complaints filed with the town and the Prince William County commonwealth’s attorney’s office are any indication, the soap opera has just entered a second season.
A 17-year-old Haymarket girl and a 30-year-old town police officer filed complaints with the town, saying that Roop and other officers accused them of having a sexual affair, causing them anguish and embarrassment. The teenager who The Washington Post is not naming because she is a minor, also filed a complaint with the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, writing a five-page letter detailing how she was questioned by Roop and others until she was in tears.
“I was being accused of being the victim of a sexual misconduct investigation and was being treated like a suspect by his questioning without my parents present,” the teenager wrote in the letter.
At one point, Roop told her, “why can’t you be fat and ugly, “ she wrote. “I was crying while in the chief’s office and starting to feel very uncomfortable le at his remarks.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D) said that his office had received the complaint but that he could not confirm or deny whether an investigation was pending.
Calls to the Haymarket Police Department for Roop were directed to Town Manager Gene Swearingen, who said he could not talk about the case because it is an ongoing personnel issue.
“At this point, we’re following our standard procedure for employee complaints,” Swearingen said. “Once we are through with that process, we will be able to talk a little more freely about it.”
Officer Benjamin L. Ishmael wrote two letters of complaint to Haymarket May Pam E. Stutz. In one, he cites workplace sexual harassment by Roop and Sgt. Greg Breeden, alleging that he has heard them using inappropriate sexual language daily at work.
“At this time I have at least four other persons that are willing and have given me written sworn statements that state this type of behavior has been ongoing with the Town of Haymarket Police Department, “ he wrote in his complaint.
In the second compliant, Ishmael claims defamation of character. He says that the department’s internal investigation into him was not kept confidential and that even before the investigation started, many town residents were aware of the allegations against him. The leak, he wrote, “has tarnished my reputation and slandered my image before the public.”
Ishmael wrote both letters after being suspended without pay April 5.
“This whole thing has pretty much ruined me completely,” he said, adding that his wife of a year has filed for separation. “They just destroyed my career. My family is embarrassed. They destroyed my marriage. They destroyed this girl’s reputation. Something needs to happen. And I worry nothing will.”
The teenager’s mother shares his concern, according to her letter addressed to Ebert.
“This poor officer has been humiliated by his department for accusations that are completely false. Our daughter is devastated that the very officer that has been there to help her and us is being put through this and is being put through this and is currently suspended without pay as they look for reasons to fire him or force his resignation,” she wrote. “I would have made this complaint to the board of directors of the Town Of Haymarket, but I know that with past incidents involving the chief and others within the department it gets swept under the table and kept hushed.”
The police department has been embroiled in a series of problems over the past few years.
An officer was accused of standing guard at an illegal poker game in Fairfax County. Roop and Breeden were each suspended for 15 days without pay after a sexual harassment investigation initiated by a former officer’s complaints that they often made sexually explicit comments. And Breeden was accused of trying to break down his estranged wife’s door.
The department also came under fire when it dismantled the auxiliary program last year, in what the dismissed officers characterized a retaliatory slap in the face.
In her letter, the teenager wrote that her conversation with Roop came after other officers had questioned her and asked about messages from Ishmael on her MySpace page. The officer read the posted messages out loud, over and over, she wrote.
“I said the comments were never meant to be to be taken as a sexual comment and that we never did anything and then he read another message and at that time I started to cry and walked out, “she wrote.
“Then he said well how many times did you guys hug. I told him one time, “ she wrote. “I told him that I saw him and that I ran over to his car when he was working and hugged him while he was inside his car and that it was just a friendly thank you for helping me with a situation that just happened. I said that I knew I shouldn’t have done that but Ben didn’t know I was going to hug him.”
How much more can Haymarket residents take?
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