Lincoln Police Department Officer Sara Khalil was, according to anonymous sources close to the case, recently fired from LPD. Khalil’s termination is the latest in what appears to be a string of retaliatory punishments inflicted on LPD employees who have spoken about sexual or racial misconduct in the force. Sarah Williams, Angela Sands, Erin Spilker, and Luke Bonkiewicz precede her.
Khalil, who was born in Iraq and raised in Pakistan, played a crucial role interfacing with Lincoln’s immigrant communities. She joined LPD after leaving the Lincoln Fire Department, where she had been harassed so badly that another LFD employee won a $1.4 million settlement from a jury due to retaliation he experienced simply for sticking up for her.
According to sources, soon after Khalil moved to the police department she reported a white male officer for excessive force against a homeless Black man, which led to the officer’s dismissal. After that, the source says, Khalil was repeatedly sexually and racially harassed in retaliation. She had joined a sex discrimination lawsuit along with three other women officers, Williams, Sands, and Spilker, all of whom, now that Khalil has been suspended, have been pushed out of the Department. Notably, three of the four, along with Bonkiewicz, were allegedly retaliated against after the hiring of Chief Teresa Ewins, who competed for the job of Chief of Lincoln Police on promises of transparency and accountability.
In September of 2021, Khalil went on unpaid leave because of an injury to her knee that made the unpredictable work of policing–which can include climbing, running, etc.–too dangerous. Because she was without pay from her regular job, Khalil continued to teach martial arts classes to bring in income, which sources say she was able to do safely because she was teaching only children and could lead the classes in a way that allowed her to limit what kinds of actions she took and protect her knee. The fact that Khalil teaches martial arts was no secret, as she is prominently featured on the studio’s web site, and had been selected as a defensive tactics instructor at LPD due to this work. The City–who employs several attorneys and other staff named in Khalil’s joint lawsuit–reportedly hired a private investigator to film Khalil teaching classes. Chief Ewins claims the video shows Khalil exceeding the limitations she had claimed for her knee, but Khalil says that the video shows her protecting her knee.
Consequently, the Department fired Khalil on the grounds that she had fraudulently claimed an injury. The sources who spoke to Seeing Red Nebraska say that this was simply the last of a series of attempts to discredit Khalil and run her out of LPD for crossing the thin blue line.
On Friday, Chief Ewins sent the following email to LPD employees explaining LPD’s position on Khalil’s firing–and apparently trying to get in front of any claims that the firing was retaliatory.
Our opinion? We might be more inclined to give LPD the benefit of the doubt if this firing did not come on the heels of four other retaliations. Sarah Williams, Angela Sands, Erin Spilker, Luke Bonkiewicz, Sara Khalil. All of these officers’ names are familiar to Lincoln residents because they had been placed by LPD in important public-facing roles where professionalism and sound judgment were particularly important. Now they are all gone–as LPD would have it, because they are independently all liars and rulebreakers. Isn’t it more likely that the people LPD saw as ideal for sensitive positions and public-facing work are also likelier to be the ones who say something when they see wrongdoing? Has LPD or the City of Lincoln put a fraction of the effort they’ve expended to paint these five as liars and frauds into investigating their consistent reports of racism, rape, and harassment?
We will update this story as more details become available.