The evolving lawsuit between a young female Forest Park police “intern” and the department and the village will, in time, be resolved in a court of law. That’s fine.
This week, though, we report on amended complaints and responses filed in the case and we have questions. The village’s amended response now acknowledges there was sexual contact between 19-year-old “Jane Doe” and Detective Young Lee but that it was consensual.
First of all that is not the way Jane Doe sees it. More simply, though we raise this fundamental question: Can an adult in a position of authority Ð detective to intern Ð engage in a sexual relationship and have it be considered consensual?
We don’t believe so.
The village seems to agree since after what we perceive to be a legitimate third party investigation, it disciplined Lee for “improper conduct.” But the recurring history of deeply troubling sexual improprieties both within and external to the department inevitably raises questions about the village’s sincerity in changing a warped department culture.
Julie Bruch, an attorney for the village, makes the case that she personally conducts repeated training seminars for all police department staff specific to sexual harassment. She considers the department to be “proactive” in addressing this issue.
Maybe so. But somehow the message is not getting through. Yes, we live in a litigious society and silence can be a way of protecting against more and bigger suits.
Silence, especially in the insular world of a police department, can also be cover for improper behavior, an implicit approval of that behavior. That over and again we report stories about Forest Park cops who don’t understand the boundaries of sexual contact, tells us the message is not getting through that such behavior will never, ever be tolerated.
So what was the discipline handed out to Detective Lee? Days off? Lost pay? Demotion? We’d like to know what this department considers proper punishment for such grossly inappropriate actions. Eventually a court will tell us if they were also illegal actions. Yes, we know. Contracts and confidentiality. An easy cover for more covering up.
But until this department, the village’s leaders decide they are as sick of these headlines as we are of writing these tawdry stories, nothing will change. Why should it?