By Lori Pilger Mar 3, 2022 – for the Lincoln Journal Star
My cmnt: This is now my fourth post on this topic. I do find it amusing, in a disturbing kind of way, to see the most Lib-Left city in the state, with the most Lib-Left mayor and police chief in the state, both women, I think – I don’t really know how they identify, throwing one female police officer after another under the bus for filing sexual harassment claims. A Lib is always a Lib first and foremost; before any other consideration, identification or allegiance. If Libness is threatened in any kind of real or imagined manner then it doesn’t matter if you are black, female, gay, or a democrat or all four – like Seth Rich you could be assassinated – or like all of these officers you could be persecuted for speaking up. Twelve is a lot of people to have all or most of them simply making it all up!
Two more Lincoln Police officers are leaving — one fired and one resigning — after internal affairs investigations that followed reports of sexual harassment and discrimination within the department.
Officer Sara Khalil, who was with LPD since 2013, had been on leave for a knee injury since September.
And Officer Erin Spilker, who sued in January alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and insufficient investigation of complaints, has resigned effective March 21.
They are among 12 to leave or be fired from LPD since Dec. 1.
In a departmentwide email Friday about Khalil’s firing, Police Chief Teresa Ewins said she “remains committed to the principles of transparency in sharing information … regarding issues affecting our police department but balanced by the need for privacy in personnel matters.”
She then went on to describe in detail how Khalil had briefly returned to light duty before going back on leave after reporting that job tasks exceeded her physical abilities due to the injury.
Ewins said the city’s Risk Management team notified her in early February they were investigating Khalil’s claims for benefits and had determined she had provided false information in submitting claims for worker’s compensation and other benefits.
An internal affairs investigation that followed — one of at least half a dozen involving officers who have complained about sexual discrimination or harassment or who have supported the women who have — found the same.
Ewins said a video showed Khalil, who also is a Jiu-Jitsu instructor, participating in martial arts activities “that far exceeded the limitations she reported.”
“Integrity and honesty are fundamental attributes required of anyone in law enforcement, and based on that, I made the difficult decision to terminate Sara’s employment due to these serious violations of city and department policy and Nebraska state law,” she said.
Lincoln City Attorney Yohance Christie didn’t return a message asking if he would be filing charges.
In an email to the Journal Star, Khalil’s attorney, Kelly Brandon, said she adamantly denies Ewins’ assertions about her termination.
“LPD has spent far more time investigating many of our clients than it ever did investigating their concerns. It seems they care more about circling the wagons than improving things for female officers at LPD. The citizens of Lincoln have unfortunately lost the service of several exceptional officers,” Brandon said.
Officer Sarah Williams, the first to sue the city alleging a toxic workplace for women in December 2020, left LPD for a job with the Omaha Police Department.
Since then, LPD has fired Sgt. Angela Sands and Officer Laura Oliphant and in February suspended Officer Luke Bonkiewicz for 30 days. And Spilker resigned.
Officer Melissa Ripley, who filed suit in April 2021, remains the only one represented by Brandon who is not yet facing disciplinary actions or fired.
The pending lawsuits, in addition to one by Williams that the city paid $65,000 to settle in December, alleged a hostile work environment for women at LPD and what little was done about it over several years.
Last year, in a video filmed as part of an LPD recruitment effort, Khalil, who grew up in Pakistan and came to Lincoln at the age of 12, said she had wanted to be an “American cop” since she was 6.
“Even the people that I arrest, I do my best to try to get to know them and find out where they came from, why they are where they are. And I always ask them if there is anything I can do to help them to change their path and get on a better life,” she said in the video.
Khalil had worked as a defensive tactics instructor at LPD since 2014 and taught ground defense for new recruits.
In the email to staff, Ewins acknowledged that Khalil had alleged discrimination against LPD but said that didn’t “absolve her or any member from following policy and the high ethical standards required of this profession.”
And she said her decision to terminate Khalil had nothing to do with any allegations she has made. Ewins said she encourages and supports people to bring forward concerns and collaborate with her on improving the department.
On Wednesday afternoon, the city announced an independent assessment has begun at LPD to give all employees an opportunity to complete an anonymous survey about their experiences and perspectives on operations.
It was the first publicly visible step the city has taken to address the allegations since they started popping up more than a year ago.
Andrew Wegley and Margaret Reist contributed to this report.