Report: Mayor to form advisory panel to focus on troubled Lakeland Police Department

LAKELAND, Fla. - The Mayor of Lakeland says he will form an advisory commission to focus on problems with the city's police department, according to the Lakeland Ledger.

Mayor Gow Fields told city commissioners Friday morning that the panel will consist mainly of business and civic leaders.

The advisory panel will have no legal authority without City Commission approval.

Mayor Fields will have more to say about the soon-to-be-formed commission at an upcoming news conference.

The news comes in the wake of a major sex scandal at the Lakeland Police Department and a highly critical letter handed to Police Chief Lisa Womack in late June by State Attorney Jerry Hill.

Womack met briefly with reporters today and said she and Hill had "a very positive meeting" with Hill this morning, but would not go into details, according to the Ledger.

PREVIOUS REPORT:  Lakeland's police chief and the Polk County State Attorney will meet to discuss the troubled Lakeland Police Department, where a widespread investigation into a sex scandal is underway.

The Ledger of Lakeland (http://bit.ly/133NfSF) reports that Chief Lisa Womack and State Attorney Jerry Hill will meet Friday. Womack plans to bring an attorney with her.

The meeting comes after two city commissioners urged Womack to talk with Hill after he hand-delivered a scathing letter to her about the department on June 25.

Womack and Hill will likely discuss the contents of Hill's letter, which questioned whether the sexual improprieties of more than 10 members of her department could provide insight into a variety of problems that have come to light in the last several months.

"Perhaps this investigation sheds some light on the serious shortcomings of your department in the areas of traffic stops, search and seizure, thoroughness of investigations, preparedness for trial and complying with Florida Public Records law. Had these members of your department been more focused on the important responsibilities of law enforcement, rather than pursuing sexual encounters with a civilian employee, the LPD might not be in the condition it is today," Hill wrote in his letter to Womack.

The letter also detailed dozens of consensual and multiple forced sexual encounters involving more than 20 LPD officers and city employees. The report was based on investigations by the State Attorney's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Hill has urged city leaders to re-evaluate LPD's leadership. He has stopped short of saying Womack should be removed.

Womack became the department's chief in March 2011 and had previously worked in Illinois and Texas.

The Polk County Legislative Delegation also has recommended that Sheriff Grady Judd step in to help LPD until the scandal blows over.

Hill said issues with Lakeland stand out because of its large size in Polk County, which is located between the cities of Tampa and Orlando. Lakeland has 226 sworn officers in the department, making it the second-largest department in the county behind the Sheriff's Office.

Hill told The Ledger that his prosecutors now look at LPD cases more closely, especially those that involve officers who have been in trouble.

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Information from: The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.), http://www.theledger.com
 

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