Fife suspends officer over abuse claim

DOCUMENTS: Lieutenant failed to report complaint

May 4, 2011 

The City of Fife said Tuesday that a police lieutenant was suspended for three days without pay after an investigation showed he didn't follow through on an employee's complaints that she'd been sexually harassed by a police officer for nearly a decade.

The woman said the officer regularly showed her pornographic pictures on his cellphone, exposed himself and masturbated in front of her in various places on the job, including in an office and in the city’s jury room, according to the investigator’s report.

The woman said she went along with some of the activity, according to the report, which notes one instance of consensual intercourse in the weight room. She decided to report the behavior to a supervisor after the officer’s overtures became more aggressive, such as asking to come to her house, the document states.

The investigation of Lt. Doug Burrus – released to The News Tribune Tuesday – determined that Burrus failed to report the alleged victim’s concerns when she shared them with him in 2009, that he did not immediately report what he knew when an investigation began last November, and that he was not forthcoming during his interview, according to the report by Beth Kennar, who works for the Seattle-based Summit Law Group.

Burrus said the employee told him only about the pornographic pictures, but he didn’t report them because she insisted the matter be kept confidential; she just wanted the behavior to stop. But city policy spells out that supervisors must immediately report up the chain of command when confronted with a harassment complaint.

The investigator described Burrus as “very guarded” in his interview and “not credible” in explaining why he didn’t come forward with information sooner. Burrus also reportedly told the investigator that he did not fully believe the employee’s story. The accused officer had shared his cellphone pictures and videos with Burrus on occasion, according to the report, and the lieutenant didn’t think they were a big deal.

“During my interview, however, Lt. Burris (sic) stated that he now realizes, with 20/20 hindsight, that he should have immediately reported (the woman’s) concerns,” the investigator wrote.

A city spokeswoman said Tuesday that Burrus was suspended for three days and has since returned to work. He’s been employed by Fife police for 17 years.

The Burrus report is one of three that The News Tribune has requested involving Fife police officers. As recently as Monday, city officials said they were planning to release the investigation of the unnamed officer whom the female employee accused of harassment; they said they expected to release it Tuesday.

But Tuesday morning, at the same time officials released the Burrus document, they said their investigation of the police officer was exempt from disclosure because “the allegations of misconduct were not substantiated.”

The officer resigned from the force in January before the investigator could interview him.

The city said it paid nothing for the investigations. Summit Law was paid for its investigation of Burrus by Fife’s insurance with the Washington Cities Insurance Association.

Auburn police investigated the officer accused of sexual harassment. They did so on a reciprocal basis, the Fife spokeswoman said.

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