LEOBOR Protects Police Misconduct

There’s been good reporting (from WDEL and The News Journal) over the past months about how well the New Castle County Police have been able to hide an alleged sexual predator for decades within their ranks. Even as the female officers who filed complaints over the years, nothing seemed to happen internal to the office — and Lt. Col. Quinton Watson (the accused) continued to be a trusted member of the force and continued to be promoted.

Multiple officers said they witnessed Watson grab “the groin and buttocks of subordinate female officers against their will,” according to the union’s complaint. These witnesses said they reported what they saw to Bond, but no action was taken, the complaint stated.

Female officers described receiving “unwanted and sexually explicit” texts with propositions in graphic detail from Watson, the report said.

Watson brazenly told women – in front of other officers – that they had nice breasts and buttocks, and “should wear clothing to accentuate the appearance” of them, according to the complaint.

And in some cases, Bond was a witness to these remarks, the union says in the complaint penned with the support of at least seven current and former New Castle County employees.

There’s some additional info on Johnson’s alleged sexual harassment in the reporting:
Second-in-command at New Castle County Police placed on administrative leave over harassment allegations
High-ranking New Castle County police officer put on paid leave, only days from retirement
Sexual harassment claims embroil former No. 2 of New Castle County Police
New Castle County’s secret | Public may never know results of harassment investigation into top cop
New Castle County FOP files complaint over Meyer administration’s handling of grievances tied to top cop harassment allegations
‘The biggest hidden secret’ in Delaware: Sexual harassment inside NCCo Police Department
‘A safe harbor’ for a ‘serial sexual predator’ | Current, former NCCPD officers file lawsuit against ex-second-in-command

It’s important to look at all of the reporting — mainly to see that the focus of this story has bounced around from detail on the history of workplace harassment and how this officer survived all of the years he was doing it, to the more political FOP complaints of how grievances against this officer were handled and a lawsuit that targets the current NCCo administration for mishandling the harassment charges.

It is appalling that this officer survived and thrived for so long in the NCCoPD. But we can imagine how — the same kind of toxic paramilitary environments that shield officers who would insult and brutalize black and brown people could certainly shield officers who would insult and harass their female counterparts. It would not have been that long ago within the department (as in many others) where it might have been SOP to insult and harass officers of color newly integrating the force. Still, it’s the 21st century and how is it that this man’s despicable behavior towards female officers was shielded and even rewarded with routine promotions? Promotions where he was supervising the very female officers he was harassing?

What I don’t get is how the FOP is interested in this *now*. What I don’t get is how it is that a 20 year record of tolerating this officer’s horrific behavior towards his female officers is supposed to be the fault if the current administration. Especially since this administration was the one that put him on leave.

The current lawsuit against the current administration — given that this went on for multiple administrations seems odd too, until you see that there is a 3 year statute of limitations on bring these complaints against a public employee. Even so, a requested investigation of the Meyer Administration cleared them of all six charges filed. Rep. Val Longhust has introduced a bill that would let employees file suit against supervisors for sexual harassment charges up to 25 years after the incident.

Which is needed and good. Clearly 3 years is too short of a time period to either be ready to take the action or even to exhaust other reporting avenues before turning to a civil lawsuit.

But the thing that would help protect other women from sexual harassment from their supervisors at the NCCoPD (and all of the PDs) would be the elimination of LEOBOR. It would help protect all PD employees across the state from all kinds of harassment and abuse from superiors because now that behavior can no longer be hidden from public view and the public can join in any call for justice or institutional change.

LEOBOR allows the worst behavior committed by a minority of police officers to be shielded from public view. We should know what the outcome of the Wilmington Police department’s investigation into Watson’s behavior is. We should be able to see whether or not previous complaints against Watson were even recorded for investigation previously. We should be able to know what other issues like this might be hanging out there.

Taxpayers should know because we’re ultimately on the hook for the lawyers to defend against the lawsuits and on the hook for the payouts. Taxpayers should know so we can be clear with our lawmakers about unacceptable behavior. Taxpayers should know because a handful of these officers come back via elected office — and voters should know about old police records before casting a vote.

If we’re interested in protecting our officers from predatory and harassing behavior from their superiors, extending the statute of limitations is one step. But removing LEOBOR removes the legal cover these predators and harassers operate under.

The groups and candidates (and their supporters) who are most vocal in trying to hold the current County Executive (the one who put Watson on leave) accountable for 20+ years of Watson’s harassment of female officers DON’T call for the repeal of LEOBOR. Because they benefit from this shield staying in place too. But it is completely unserious to tell people that you are outraged at Watson’s behavior and the fact that he got away with it for more than two decades by telling people that Matt Meyer (County Exec for 3.5 years) is responsible for all of it. They won’t call for LEOBOR to be repealed because releasing all of the records on this man’s behavior would obliterate their project to deflect from Watson’s behavior to try to damage Meyer instead. It’s foolish and doesn’t help these officers get their justice. But repealing LEOBOR would help these officers and many more get their own justice by getting the state out of the business of shielding the bad behavior of a few police officers.

You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas. -- Shirley Chisolm

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