Chief Inspector Accused of Assault Once Again
In 2014, Michele Vandegrift, a 13-year veteran of the police force who became a detective in 2011, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming Chief Inspector Carl Holmes had made sexual comments to her and sexually assaulted her seven years prior. Vandegrift’s filing also indicated it wasn’t uncommon for men on the force to make regular sexual comments to females, expose their genitals, send inappropriate images, and touch women inappropriately.
Vandegrift said her supervisors responded to her allegations by transferring her to Southwest Detectives, an assignment viewed as a punishment due to how busy the department is, withholding cases that could require overtime pay, and disciplining her. After her transfer, Vandegrift said supervisors, including the Chief Inspector, told her new colleagues about her complaint and warned them to “watch what they say around her,” which “primed [coworkers] to distrust” her.
Vandegrift’s alleged assault happened one year after Officer Christa Hayburn told supervisors that Chief Inspector Holmes assaulted her in his squad car during a going away party. Hayburn submitted an official complaint in February 2008. However, even after investigators found Holmes’ semen in the car and two witnesses corroborated Hayburn’s rape account, Holmes said he had had consensual sexual intercourse with a civilian in the vehicle and the case was dismissed.
Hayburn has since built an empire designed to inspire abuse survivors to share their stories regardless of the outcome in court. She has a website and has been invited to speak at many events. She says, “Through years of healing, I have become empowered. By shifting my life one step at time, I have discovered who I truly am. I have moved beyond labels — wife, mother, entrepreneur, holistic health coach, transformational coach, chef, victim/survivor advocate — and become at peace with myself and aware of what I value most in life without a label affixed to it.”
The court indicated that evidence in the case involving Vandegrift suggested that the city knew of problems related to sexual assault but “did little or nothing to stop such conduct.” According to public records, in fact, the city had paid $222,000 to resolve five sexual harassment lawsuits involving police over the past ten years – a clear indication that it has been willing to settle in order to continue its hostile culture. U.S. District Judge Mark A. Kearney, nominated for his position by President Obama and overseeing the case, also wrote that “a well-settled custom of sexual harassment” — that supervisors as high as the police commissioner ignore — afflicts the 6,100-officer force.
Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, responded to the complaint by saying: “Any and all EEOC complaints or allegations are taken very seriously and thoroughly investigated. There is no room for sexual harassment or any other such behavior in the workplace, and it’s something that is not tolerated by the department.”
As for Vandegrift’s complaints against the other officers outlined in the case, investigators found just one detective to be guilty of misconduct. They discovered the detective had texted colleagues an inappropriate picture ridiculing Vandegrift. However, according to court documents, he was never formally disciplined.