Lincoln police public information officer is latest to file lawsuit alleging discrimination

Jan 13, 2022 Updated 6 hrs ago – by Lori Pilger – for the Lincoln Journal Star

My cmnt: Lincoln, Ne. is a city which, unfortunately, is increasingly coming under the control of democrats. In that sense it is becoming the Austin, Tx of Nebraska, that is, a typical liberal, leftist, democrat-run college town in a conservative state. This results in continuing to elect female democrats to powerful positions within the city. Two such are our mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, who with the rubber stamp of the democrat-dominated city council, allowed her to place another democrat woman, Health Director Pat Lopez of The Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department, without the normal inquiries and vetting that would accompany this position, and who, with another rubber stamp from the city council, appointed a female police chief Teresa Ewins from San Fransisco of all insane, leftist places. It should also be noted that our mayor hails from that bastion of dysfunctional liberalism Portland, Or.

My cmnt: Why is the above information germane? Because we have all seen from the example of that democrat-in-chief Hillary Clinton that if women need to be thrown under the bus to allow for the continuance or furthering of their own positions of power – (as we saw when Hillary ran the “Bimbo eruption” (her coinage) damage control from her husband Bill’s sexual predation long before the #MeToo movement) – then they damn well will do it.

My cmnt: It should also be noted that multiple female LPD police officers have come forward over the years with similar complaints and lawsuits. I’ve edited these articles for clarity and brevity.

The Lincoln Police Department’s lead public information officer is the latest to file a lawsuit against the city alleging years of discrimination based on her sex and insufficient efforts to investigate her reports.

The filing comes less than a month after the city paid $65,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former officer who now works at the Omaha Police Department. 

In the new case, Officer Erin Spilker’s civil suit against the city includes more than 30 pages of detailed allegations, ranging from LPD’s handling of alleged sex assaults by male officers to discipline being focused on the women who have come forward.

“She is under a microscope, and has been subjected to assaults, harassment, intimidation, threats and retaliation, which affect her ability to do her job,” Spilker’s attorney, Kelly Brandon, said in the complaint.

She said Spilker, who is currently on medical leave, believes that LPD is trying to find ways to terminate all of the women who have engaged in protected activity against the city.

The lawsuit follows the firing late last month of two other officers who have made complaints and ended up being investigated by Internal Affairs at LPD.

Lincoln City Attorney Yohance Christie didn’t immediately return a request for comment but has previously said he can’t comment on litigation or personnel matters.

In a statement Thursday, Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins addressed the lawsuits publicly for the first time. Ewins said there is no active internal investigation into Spilker, who she said voluntarily withdrew her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint to file a lawsuit against the city.

“The Lincoln Police Department provided a response to all of her allegations, to include documentation of our internal investigations,” Ewins said.

“Now that this case is before a court of law, the city will defend the actions of this department and its members where appropriate, and disclose any actions taken.”

In the lawsuit filed in Lancaster County District Court, Brandon laid out dozens of incidents where Spilker and other women alleged being treated differently at LPD. Among them:

* That Spilker heard male employees at LPD referring to female recruits as “fresh meat” on a consistent basis.

* That a male police sergeant grabbed Spilker’s phone to look at photos she’d taken at a lake day event and zoomed in on a photo of another female officer and asked for her to send him the photo, which Spilker declined to do. The same sergeant, in an annual evaluation, referenced Spilker’s vagina several times and “made inappropriate comments about her dating life and relationships,” according to the lawsuit.

* That a male officer who Spilker alleged sexually assaulted her was allowed to work remotely from home during a suspension while the investigation proceeded. Spilker ultimately was told there was “not enough evidence” to discipline him. After a second complaint was raised about the same officer, he was allowed to medically retire. 

Brandon said on Jan. 20, 2021, Spilker and a group of other female LPD officers met with Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird about their concerns and to talk about the selection of a new police chief.

Spilker told Gaylor Baird she would never want her daughter to work for LPD because it “wasn’t a safe place for women.”

In the meeting, they told the mayor how women were groomed not to report equal employment violations, “that LPD needed someone to come in to change that culture and let women know it’s OK to report, and that they needed a leader to come in and set a new tone.”

Spilker said when Ewins was chosen as the new chief she was hopeful that she would bring change to the department for women. But that hasn’t yet happened.

Instead, in the fall, Sgt. Angela Sands was subjected to several Internal Affairs investigations that Spilker believes were unwarranted. Sands eventually was terminated for alleged dishonesty, though the Internal Affairs sergeant who performed the investigation found the allegation not sustained, Brandon said.

The hostility created by LPD in response to female officers filing charges of discrimination has caused Spilker to want to search for new employment.

Gaylor Baird, in response to Spilker’s lawsuit, said in a statement that her administration is “committed to creating a culture of excellence, free from discrimination and harassment.”

“We thoroughly investigate and respond to any employee complaints, including those that refer to events that pre-date this administration, and we will continue to do so in our efforts to ensure a positive and safe working environment for all,” the mayor said. 

Last month, the city paid $65,000 to settle former Officer Sarah Williams’ lawsuit. Williams told the Lincoln City Council that sexual harassment and discrimination “was and is pervasive” in the Lincoln department and implored the council to intervene.

During public testimony at the council meeting, Williams said female officers continued to face retaliation from the department because of formal complaints.

Sands, who had been in the council chambers to support Williams, was fired a week later.

Andrew Wegley contributed to this report. 

Lincoln Police PIO files lawsuit against the city, alleging sexual assault within department

By Bayley Bischof – Published: Jan. 13, 2022 – for KOLN/KGIN news

Erin Spilker, Public Information Officer for the Lincoln Police Department
Erin Spilker, Public Information Officer for the Lincoln Police Department(10/11 NOW)

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – Erin Spilker, Public Information Officer for the Lincoln Police Department has filed a lawsuit against the City of Lincoln alleging years of discrimination, sexual assault and harassment.

Spilker is the third female Lincoln Police Officer to file such a suit in the last year.

In the 34-page complaint, Spilker alleges she was sexually assaulted by male Lincoln Police Officers. The first physical assault occurred in 2014 when Spilker was in her home with two male officers. According to the court filing, one of the officers left the room and the second approached her from behind and sexually assaulted her. Spilker did not report this assault for fear of “retaliation, ridicule and trauma she would have been subjected to within the department.”

A year later, in October of 2015, Spilker was sexually assaulted again by a different Lincoln Police Officer. According to the filing, Spilker was at a Halloween party when it happened. She again, did not report the assault because of fear of retaliation.

The documents show that in 2018, when former officer Sarah Williams, complained to then-Chief Jeff Bliemiester about the toxic work environment for women, Williams disclosed female officers had been assaulted at the Lincoln Police Department, including Spilker. The documents said as far as Spilker is aware, no thorough investigation was initiated. In 2020, further along in Williams’ process of making complaints against the city, then-officer Angela Sands called on Bliemeister to conduct an investigation into two Lincoln Police Officers accused of assault, including the officer who assaulted Spilker at the Halloween party. Spilker said she was never interviewed in regard to this investigation.

Later on in 2020, the court documents show Spilker was forced to interact with the officer who assaulted her several times.

Since then, an EEO complaint has been filed with the city regarding the assault Spilker experienced at the Halloween party. Spilker hasn’t been interviewed by the city and the documents show after an internal investigation regarding the assault, the city’s EEO officer was told she wasn’t allowed to investigate the allegations.

In December 2020, then-Chief Bliemeister and then-Captain Michon Morrow informed Spilker the officer who assaulted her at the party would be removed from service during the investigation.

“Erin informed Bliemiester that she had been sexually assaulted by multiple officers at LPD but based on her experience and observations about how sexual assault victims were treated at LPD, she never reported the incidents,” the documents explain.

The complaint alleges the officer accused of assaulting Spilker worked from home during his suspension and later returned to work. He was ultimately given an eight-hour suspension. This was later found to be unrelated to the sexual assault and instead related to his physical assault of a male officer, according to the court documents.

These two assaults are not the only complaints in the court documents.

The documents also allege the department failed to provide an appropriate place for Spilker to pump breast-milk for her children when she gave birth. The documents show Spilker was forced to pump in a sleeping room, a women’s locker room, restroom and her cruiser. None of these facilities were private or hygienic. The documents allege that at times, janitorial staff walked in on women pumping in the locker room.

The documents said because she wasn’t provided an adequate space for pumping, she often had to be out of service for longer periods than normal. They say she faced comments from officers saying she was only nursing her child as an excuse to be out of service.

Later, when Spilker was pregnant with her second child, she faced high-risk complications and had to go on light duty. When she ran out of light-duty time, she didn’t disclose health concerns for fear of retaliation and harassment.

“Being pregnant and attempting to care for one’s children while working at LPD was looked down upon by co-workers and supervisors within LPD,” the complaint reads.

Throughout the years, Spilker reports she faced unwanted sexual advances by fellow officers and personnel with Lincoln Fire and Rescue. She said when she did engage in relationships with fellow officers, she faced extreme scrutiny that the male counter-parts did not face.

In 2013, Spilker separated from her husband and later had a brief relationship with a recruit officer. Nine months later, Spilker was asked by her then-supervisor Genelle Moore if she was having a relationship with any recruits. Spilker said no initially, because she wasn’t at that time. Later she clarified she had a previous relationship with a recruit nine-months before. Because of this, Spilker was investigated, suspended for 40 hours and received a Brady Letter in her file stating she may not be fit to testify.

Later, officers, union members and Assistant Chief Brian Jackson, who was serving as interim chief at the time, told Spilker he wouldn’t remove the Brady Letter even though he admitted it was issued inappropriately.

The complaint also reports instances where Spilker was made to feel uncomfortable by her supervisors within the department, including Moore and Sgt. Todd Beam. The documents show once, Beam requested Spilker send him a photo of fellow officer, Sarah Williams, at the department’s lake day. Later, Spilker was subjected to weekly meetings with Beam to check on her mental health. The documents allege Beam asked Spilker her about her personal life, children and dating life until she was in tears. In her annual review with Beam, the documents allege he made comments about her vagina and other inappropriate comments.

In January 2021, Spilker and other female officers met with Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird to discuss their experiences and concerns about the selection process of a new police chief.

“Erin told Gaylor Baird she would never want her daughter to work for LPD because it wasn’t a safe place for women,” the complaint said.

The documents allege the women told Gaylor Baird women are groomed not to report violations and they need a new leader to come in and set a new tone.

In August 2021, Chief Teresa Ewins was selected as the new chief. The documents show Spilker was hopeful Ewins would bring change but they also show Ewins on various occasions has reportedly been abrupt and unpleasant with Spilker while she has attempted to perform her job. Following the city council meeting in which former officer Sarah Williams discussed her lawsuit and settlement with the city, that Spilker attended as a show of support for Williams, the documents accuse Ewins of avoiding communication with Spilker for several days. The documents show just last week, while on leave, Spilker was accused of leaking information to the press about a press conference.

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