From: Luke Bonkiewicz <LPD1691@cjis.lincoln.ne.gov>
Sent: Saturday, March 20, 2021 12:32:34 PM
To: Jennifer J. Brinkman <JBrinkman@lincoln.ne.gov>
Subject: Sexual harassment, sexual assaults, and LPD’s next police chief
I understand the mayor is soliciting feedback from LPD officers regarding the next chief of police. I would like the members of the search committee to read the below email as they consider potential candidates to interview. If possible, I’d very much like this email forwarded to them.
Dear search committee-
Currently, the mayor is asking for input concerning LPD’s next police chief.
I am writing to describe a dark undercurrent of the Lincoln Police Department, a pervasive subculture that marginalizes female sworn officers, ignores reports of sexual harassment, and fosters an environment that discourages women from reporting both sexual harassment and sexual assaults committed by male employees.
As you consider who to interview for LPD’s next police chief, I ask you to identify candidates who will acknowledge the existence of this subculture, as well as identify ways to excise this cancer from our agency.
In my 10 years at LPD, I have spoken with many women about their experiences at LPD. To be sure, many of them report positive experiences, and LPD is an exceptional agency in many respects. However, many women also report atrociously sexist and even assaultive behavior by male co-workers. Consider the following accounts:
-A male sergeant who repeatedly hugged and kissed female officers on the neck
-A male officers who jammed his fingers into the vagina of a female officer during an off-duty gathering
-A male officers who groped the breasts of a female officer during an off-duty gathering
-A male officer who encountered an unconscious female civilian at an off-duty gathering and began having sex with her, only for co-workers to drag him off her
-The female officers who reached out to LPD’s Investigations Unit, asking if they can provide feedback and suggestions about how to improve sexual assault investigations, only to be told by LPD investigators that their opinions aren’t needed
-A male investigator who disparaged a sexual assault victim, declaring that the victim is only reporting to sue the suspect for money
-Male officers who harass female officers, asking when they’re going to get pregnant so they can avoid work (or avoid discipline) and get off the street
-Male officers who show cruiser camera or body-worn camera footage of sexual assault victims (some nude) to other officers after the call
-A male officer who grabbed the buttocks of a female officer as she checked out equipment before her shift
-Captains who send photos of their penises to female officers
-Male supervisors who pat female officers on the head and call them “girl”
-Male supervisors who select male officers to make entry on dynamic calls for service while sending female officers to the perimeter
-A male supervisor who advised a female officer to stop being so “flirty” because it might look bad if she filed an EEO complaint or lawsuit
-A male captain who attempted to “groom” numerous new female officers, telling them they had to sleep with him or their career would suffer
This list is also not even close to being comprehensive. Some perpetrators have left, but many remain. You might ask, “Why isn’t this stuff being reported or investigated?” First, incidents go unreported because females do not feel they will be believed. They also fear retaliation. For example, if they file an EEO complaint, they believe someone will file a retaliatory EEO complaint to silence them (this has also happened). The women fear that reporting these incidents will jeopardize their safety on calls, i.e., some male officers will not assist or respond during emergencies. They also believe reporting will hurt their career prospects—many women want to join SWAT, Investigations, or other heavily male-dominated units, and they fear that reporting will hinder their chances of being selected.
Second, even when incidents are reported and investigated, nothing is being done, mainly because the decision is that these incidents cannot be substantiated. I respect due process, and I understand that a fair and impartial investigation can yield a finding of “unsubstantiated.” However, when employees see that investigations (Internal Affairs, EEO, city EEO) do not result in any protect action, they are extremely unlikely to report future victimizations. “Why bother?” they ask. And consider this account: an LPD captain heard that an EEO complaint was being filed. The captain went to the EEO sergeant’s office when the sergeant was absent, and then intercepted and opened the supposedly confidential EEO complaint. That captain remained at LPD and was allowed to further bully and intimidate employees without consequence until he retired. If you knew that your EEO complaints were being intercepted and read, would you file one? I wouldn’t.
LPD is filled with both exceptional male and female officers. The number of male officers who prey upon female officers is small, but they are repeat offenders. Much greater is the prevalent bias against females and their abilities, perspectives, and contributions. I understand this search committee is composed of some former LPD officers. I cannot speak to their experiences or perspectives. I can only speak to my experiences and the truth as told to me by victims, many of whom have not and will not report due to the aforementioned fears.
So…when you think about who to select for our next police chief, I want you to think about the police sergeant who is forced to supervise the person who sexually assaulted her, but nothing was done because it couldn’t be “substantiated.” I want you to think about the women who work alongside male officers that disparage rape victims and share nude photos of victims. I want you to think about the female officer who was sexually assaulted by a co-worker, but when she reported it, she was told it couldn’t be substantiated, despite the fact that she produced the clothing and showed the hole that was made by the perpetrator’s finger as he jammed it through her clothing and into her vagina. I want you to think about the female officers sitting back on the perimeter of incidents because a supervisor or captain didn’t think they were good enough to be on the entry team. I want you to think about the females who were ignored when they tried to improve how LPD conducts sexual assault investigations.
And finally, I want you to think about the fact that this has been going on for decades. This problem did not suddenly emerge, and it will not suddenly disappear. It will take leadership of the highest caliber to address this problem and bring about a massive, sorely overdue cultural change.
Officer Luke Bonkiewicz #1691
Lincoln Police Department