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City of Ceres Police Cruiser; Image by Marty Bicek, http://www.modbee.com/

Two settlements have been reached regarding a lawsuit against Ceres that claimed “several police officers secretly video recorded two female civilian co-workers, and in one instance allegedly took video of one employee’s upper thigh and underpants while she was wearing a dress.” The two settlements total $400,000, and at the end of the day the city “admitted no liability in the settlements.”

So what exactly happened? What were all the allegations included in the lawsuit? For starters, two civilian women, Carissa Higginbotham and Alexandra Warner first sued Ceres back in April of 2015. Representing them in the lawsuit was Schwartz & Cook. According to the lawsuit, each woman was secretly video recorded on separate occasions. For example, Higginbotham, who “worked for the Police Department for more than a decade in executive administrative positions before resigning in November 2014,” attended a shift briefing on October 29, 2013.

Image of the City of Ceres Welcome Sign
City of Ceres Welcome Sign; Image Courtesy of Fresh & Easy Buzz, http://freshneasybuzz.blogspot.com/

During the briefing, “she noticed a cell phone on the floor.” When she asked who’s it was, officer Corey Henson said it was his. She left it on the floor, but later in the day “Henson showed her the cell phone video, which included video of her upper thigh and underpants.” It’s important to note that Higginbotham wore a dress to the briefing. Offended by the video, she told “Henson not to show the video to anyone.” According to the lawsuit, though, “Henson shared the video with other officers.” In response, Higginbotham complained about the incident and the “department conducted an investigation and placed him on leave.” He was fired in 2014, though later “appealed the decision and got his job back.

Warner, who began working for the department in January 2012 as a “crime analyst and crime scene technician,” experienced a similar invasion of privacy that Higginbotham did. According to the lawsuit, she found a surveillance video camera in her office. It was “angled toward her desk and where she changed clothes before working out in the department’s fitness room.” The lawsuit stated, “the videotape reflected that, for about one month, if not longer, the hidden video camera continually recorded Warner working in her office.”

Despite an investigation discovering that Warner’s male co-workers did indeed place the camera in her office, “they were cleared of sexual discrimination and harassment charges.” In addition to the complaints regarding the video camera, Warner also claimed that “male employees in the unit were hostile to her and made it difficult for her to do her job.” Higginbotham also alleged that she was “subject to other acts of discrimination and harassment” and both women alleged that “police officials retaliated against them when they complained, and that the Police Department did not conduct thorough investigations of their complaints.

As for the settlement agreement, confidentiality provisions have been put in place to “essentially bar the women from commenting.” Despite the provisions, though, their attorney was able to release a statement, saying “I’m pleased with the outcome on behalf of both of my clients.

Sources:

Ceres settles allegations officers secretly filmed female co-workers

Ceres officers secretly recorded female co-workers, lawsuit says

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