Lakeland sex scandal could go back 13 years, officials say



LAKELAND, Fla. - People in Lakeland got the chance to sound off about a sex scandal within the Police Department in Polk County that could go back a decade or more.

Since the scandal broke, over 100 residents from Lakeland attended a meeting and had questions for their Police Department about what goes on inside.

Sue Eberle, a civilian employee with the Lakeland Police Department, said she had consensual and sometimes coerced sex with nearly a dozen officers on the force.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the alleged incidents and had let nine officers go.

The city manager couldn't say how many people will eventually be fired because they're finding out the allegations go back 13 years. Officials said they are having a hard time looking into all of the accusations because some of the employees are no longer there.

Some of the people who are going to be at a meeting Monday may include members of the city's new advisory committee that will oversee issues within the Police Department.

Two of the committee members resigned Monday before even getting a chance to begin solving the issue.

Polk State College President Eileen Holden didn't state exactly why she was stepping down; however, it may have something to do with the "sunshine law" that makes meetings public.

Holden listed challenges the city faces with the incidents involving Eberle.

Her list of concerns included a series in breakdowns in communication and accountability throughout the city and the absence of collaboration with the city commission.

Holden said she hopes the city will handle the scandal with eyes wide open in evident department problems.

During the meeting, some berated the department while Chief Lisa Womack sat quietly.

"We're just [as] embarrassed and ashamed as you are," said Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields.

Lakeland City Manager Douglas Thomas dropped a bomb on the crowd when he disclosed how long these allegations and related ones have been going on for.

"Many of the allegations span the time of 13 years and beyond," said Thomas.

In fact, the department is doing an audit of every DUI arrest over the last year after the department came under fire for a video that shows an officer told a woman to shake out her bra.

Afterward, State Attorney Jerry Hill said he can't trust the officers in court.

Not everyone is against the police. A former Lakeland officer said asking a woman to shake out her bra is exactly what she was taught while on the force.

"Women carry a lot of things in their brassieres. Here's my cellphone, my keys," said the officer.

Some residents weren't happy that some of those officers have and will likely to continue to resign before being fired and still get pension, or become a police officer elsewhere.

The new police advisory board will meet regarding the comment later this week.

Two of the people on that board have already resigned.