Former police chief took me to strip club for job interview, ex-officer says in lawsuit

No police department wants their police chief accused of sexual misconduct with two officers in a lesbian relationship. Especially not after their former police chief was arrested for lusting over a $100, 30-minute threesome with prostitutes. But that has recently happened to the Miami Gardens Police Department, already known nationwide for its extreme use of a stop-and-frisk policy. 

Officers believe the pattern is linked to those who are doing the hiring. In the world of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Oliver G. Gilbert III and Antonio Brooklen are fraternity brothers who have both been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. Gilbert was appointed to the city council in 2008 and has served as mayor since 2012.

After BSO arrested Police Chief Stephen Johnson in 2015 for soliciting prostitutes, Brooklen, who the Florida Department of Law Enforcement accused of having about 60 "sexually explicit" pictures on his work computer, was promoted to interim chief and later to chief. But not without protest from some of the officers, who knew their past

When Brooklen abruptly resigned Sept. 22, 2016, those same officers said his resignation was related to sexual misconduct with two female police officers who were in a lesbian relationship that had blown up into a fit of jealousy. His letter of resignation said his "mother's fragile health condition" prompted his decision.  

"My mother, wife and children are my heart and I live for them," Brooklen's letter said

Kalicia Battle, a former Lauderhill Police Department officer who worked for the Miami Gardens Police Department, would later claim Brooklen resigned because he was caught up in a love triangle and she had text messages to prove it. In a complaint she filed against the city Thursday, she claims her hiring process included a visit to Tootsies, a strip club in Miami Gardens.

"Out of uniform and dressed in a suit, [Brooklen] told her to park her vehicle in the private garage adjacent to the strip club and walked her in through a private back entrance up to a private suite overlooking the main stage," the complaint says. 

Battle, who was 25 years old at the time, was hired as a Miami Gardens police officer Aug. 10, 2015 and said the sexual advances continued. She was openly gay and was later romantically involved with Officer Kimberly McDonald, who had sex with Brooklen and said he "was physically abusive and she was afraid of him," according to the complaint.

As their relationship got serious, McDonald allegedly promised to stop having sex with Brooklen, but Battle thinks she broke her promise.

The two got in a fight April 18, 2016, after Battle said she saw an unmarked Miami Gardens police car was parked outside McDonald's house. She believes Brooklen was inside McDonald's home when she stopped by and McDonald wouldn't let her inside. She claims that when she knocked on the door again, Opa-locka Police Department Officer Simon Lowery opened the door. 

Lowery was later reprimanded for calling out sick that day. McDonald walked out and their argument turned physical. Battle claims McDonald scratched her face. But that wasn't the worst of it. Battle, who was on duty during the altercation, claims that what happened next at the MGPD station was terrifying. 

The conflict ended when Battle was dispatched to a domestic violence incident at a local hotel. She was later summoned to talk to Sgt. Javier Romaguera at the station, where officers took her gun, Taser and personal cellphone, and Capt. Carole Thony, Sgt. Dwayne Piper, Sgt. Buddy Hunholz and Cmdr. Chuck Wagoner detained her, according to the complaint.   

Battle claims her request to be placed in an interrogation room, outfitted with audio and video equipment was refused. Instead, Battle said they used a handheld tape recorder and intermittently stopped recording to conduct interrogations off the record. 

Battle claims Hunholz and Wagoner threatened to destroy her if she ever mentioned anything about her relationship with Brooklen. They threatened to charge her with stalking, armed burglary and battery, coerced her to sign a written consent to search her cellphone and forced her to delete all of the text messages between her and McDonald, according to the complaint. 

When McDonald filed a restraining order, Battle decided to tell her father, John Battle, a former deputy with the Broward Sheriff's Office, what was happening. He allegedly met with Brooklen at a park to remind him that the text messages that she was forced to delete were all saved to her iCloud. McDonald dismissed the order. 

Battle said she agreed to meet with Brooklen May 18, 2016  in Hollywood behind some warehouses, and he allegedly told her City Manager Cameron Benson wanted her fired, and she needed to resign from the department or Benson would force "McDonald to reopen the fabricated criminal case against her and ruin her career." 

Gilbert recommended Benson for the job in 2013. He knows how it feels to have to walk out of a job with shame amid a scandal. In June 2011, he resigned from his $205,000 a year post as Hollywood city manager amid a long list of accusations that included having police officers deliver a generator to his parents in Lauderhill. 

The FBI, the Broward County state attorney's office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated him, as he left with a severance package of nearly $300,000. There was insufficient evidence, and Benson was cleared of all wrongdoing.

Battle resigned and applied for jobs at BSO and the Key Biscayne Police Department, but Brooklen allegedly "maliciously instructed his secretary not to respond to the inquiry or provide the letter needed to hire her," according to the complaint. After Battle hired an attorney, the complaint alleges the city began the process of bringing her back "to cover up what really occurred." 

There was a June 30, 2016 meeting with Benson, Brooklen, McDonald, former Assistant Chief, Cynthia Mechanic, and Melissa Negron, the head of human resources, to patch things up and about a week later Benson and Negron welcomed her back. She waited for a start date until Sept. 12, 2016 when she received a letter informing her of the city's decision not to employ her.

Lawyer Stephan Lopez, who was representing Battle, filed a letter of intent to sue the city Sept. 19, 2016 -- three days before Brooklen resigned. Benson said in February that he was exploring possible legal action on behalf of McDonald, who was suspended with pay after the incident.

When Miami Gardens named Delma K. Noel-Pratt its first female police chief last year, Gilbert and Benson celebrated. The chief said there was a gun fire issue in Miami Gardens and said she was planning to work proactively with state and federal agencies and would face the challenge of coming in as an outsider to get to know the troops.

Noel-Pratt hired J.D. Patterson, a licensed minister at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, to serve as assistant chief. Homicide detectives are busy. In December, Alicia Roundtree was shot while she drove home from work. She was a mother of three killed days before her son's college graduation. Joshua Gonzalez, 38, was shot dead days later. 

Battle filed her complaint against the city Thursday alleging MGPD was a hostile work environment and the city needs to reinstate her and pay her damages. City Attorney Sonja Knighton-Dickens said Friday that the city has not responded to the complaint. 

This BBSNews article was syndicated from News | WPLG, and written by News | WPLG. Read the original article here.

This BBSNews article originally appeared on News | WPLG.