Huntsville, TX – A former Huntsville Police Department (HPD) officer has filed a federal lawsuit against the department, alleging that she was fired in retaliation for filing sexual harassment complaints against her supervisor.
Former HPD Officer Kimberly Webb worked for the department from Mar. 4. 2013, until she was dishonorably discharged on May 3, 2017, the Houston Chronicle reported.
According to KHOU, her termination paperwork suggested that she had been dishonest and insubordinate.
“You don’t go against that brotherhood. You don’t go against that culture. But it’s not acceptable,” Webb said through tears.
She said that within months of being hired, other officers began harassing her with sexual jokes and unwanted advances.
“I got told it was like a contact sport,” she told KHOU. “If you’re in a contact sport, you know there is a certain level of activity that is going to come with that sport. So suck it up and move on.”
Webb claimed that her supervisor began sexually harassing her approximately one year after she joined the force.
According to court documents, Webb said that the sergeant had sent her “numerous sexually explicit pictures via text message beginning as far back as 2013,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
She claimed that her supervisor asked to see her breasts and more, KHOU reported.
“[He sent] a picture of himself asking for pictures of me and it was constant and persistent all the time,” she said.
Webb explained that, after she filed her second complaint, she was moved to court duty. She said she had no problems during the two years she worked at that assignment, and pointed out that her coworkers were primarily female.
In the lawsuit, Webb contended that the sergeant assaulted her in January of 2017, when he “placed her in a dangerous arm bar and pressed the release button on her service weapon, causing the magazine to fall out,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
She said that, during a co-worker’s retirement party on Feb. 28, 2017, her sergeant came up behind her and “kicked her legs from under her causing her to fall.”
On Mar. 3, 2017, she alleged that the sergeant “made repeated sexual advances towards her,” and that when she “rejected his advances, he became more aggressive and physically violent towards her.”
Webb’s third sexual harassment complaint was sent to Huntsville’s human resources department on Mar. 7, 2017, and she soon agreed to submit to a polygraph as part of the investigation into her claims.
Once the test was completed, she was told that she failed, court documents said.
“Webb was repeatedly accused of having a relationship with Sgt. Scott and exchanging sexually explicit text messages with him,” court documents related to the Apr. 19, 2017 polygraph examination said. “She continued to deny having a relationship with Sgt. Scott or sending any explicit messages to him.”
“[The sergeant] was saying he was asking for those things and sent [lewd photos] because it was a consensual relationship,” Webb told KHOU.
On the same day that Webb was terminated, HPD Chief Levin Lunsford demoted Sgt. Scott to the rank of police officer, and noted that the supervisor “had acted inappropriately during the incident,” the lawsuit said.
“The City of Huntsville has received a lawsuit filed in a federal court in Houston by former employee Kimberly Webb,” Leonard Schneider, the attorney for Chief Lunsford and the HPD told KHOU. “The suit is against the city and the Chief of Police. Legal counsel for the city is handling the case. City policies do not permit discussion of ongoing legal proceedings.”
Webb, who is now a stay-at-home mom and pregnant with her second son, said she is working to obtain a criminal justice doctoral degree, just in case she can never work as an officer again, KHOU reported.
“I was warned about what might happen for making a complaint about a fellow officer,” she claimed.
“They made an example of her,” her attorney, Ronald Dupree, said. “[The chief and department] showed her if you report these kinds of things, this is what will happen to you.”
Her lawsuit requests that she be reinstated to her position, and that she be compensated for lost wages, legal fees, and any cash award that a jury may deem appropriate.