PATTERSON, LA (WAFB) - Two high-ranking officers have been fired and a police chief retired following a reported case of sexual harassment at the Patterson Police Department. The alleged victim, a female officer, was also fired.
She claims she was forced out.
For two years, Samantha Mincey had been living her lifelong dream as a police officer. The Patterson native worked at the city jail and was later offered a job as a dispatcher.
"She is someone who cares very deeply about the people around her, and she saw being a police officer as a way she could help," Mincey's civil rights attorney William Most said.
But her career turned into a nightmare of sorts when Mincey claimed she was sexually harassed on the job. Mincey hired Most to tell her story. Most alleges in November of 2016, one of Mincey's coworkers, Officer Kirby Madison, did something in the parking lot of the police department that made her feel uncomfortable.
"He grabbed his genitals and said something extremely inappropriate to her," Most said.
Most said his client had previously called officer Madison a "black ****er," a phrase she claims is commonly used at Patterson PD.
Mincey reported the alleged genital-grabbing incident to the Assistant Police Chief, Gary Stevens, that evening. Most said the assistant chief suspended both officers. Most said that was a big mistake.
"For the police department to punish her as well shows they were not interested in actually dealing with sexual harassment," Most said.
Most said Mincey returned to work hoping to put this behind her, but top brass at Patterson PD would not let her move on.
"They moved her from the day to the night shift which was really difficult for her because she was a working mother. Even worse, they made her a subordinate to the officer who sexually harassed her," Most said.
Suddenly, Most said, Mincey's personnel file started to thicken.
According to documents obtained by 9News, in her two years at the police department, Mincey had been written up twice. After she reported the alleged sexual harassment, she was written up ten times in less than three months. Most said that is no coincidence.
"This is the clearest example of retaliation that I've seen in my career as a civil rights lawyer," Most said.
Mincey took her concerns to the city's Human Resource Officer Holden Murray and the City Clerk Angela Boyles. Mincey recorded those conversations. Her attorney shared them with 9News.
"Well, you know you've done nothing wrong. Something's happened to you. You did not cause anything, and I feel like if something after this, if something doesn't change, that's called retaliation," Murray said.
In another conversation with a woman who Most identifies as Boyles, the clerk appears to come clean with officer Mincey.
"Because you know they're waiting for you to do something so they can fire you," Boyles said.
Five days later, on January 25, 2017, Mincey was fired. According to city documents, Mincey "failed to conduct officer traffic checks every 15 minutes as required while on call." Mincey denied those allegations and instead stated that "the new CAD system allowed an officer's location to be pinpointed without making a call."
Documents from the Louisiana Workforce Commission show despite numerous appeals by the City of Patterson, Mincey received the maximum unemployment benefits. That is 26 weeks-worth of payments.
"It took a toll on her financially. It took a toll on her health. It took a toll on her whole family's well-being," Most said.
The City of Patterson is governed under a home rule charter meaning the Mayor, Rodney Grogan, is the Chief Executive Officer of the city and has the power to appoint, suspend, or remove all city government employees.
"She was fired, as I said, due to poor job performance," Grogan said.
Grogan said he did not necessarily agree with the move.
"I had to take the advisement or our city attorney," Grogan said.
Grogan said the move was recommended by Police Chief Patrick LaSalle.
"We have a wall that divides our administration and our police department. Chief LaSalle and I never discussed it," Grogan said. "It took six to eight weeks for us to find out we had something going on over there like that."
Grogan said, since the incident, he has taken steps to make sure that does not happen again.
"It should have never happened before. We went in and re-iterated. I had to terminate two officers because you can't terminate the chief because he is elected. I had to terminate two officers involved simply because there was a lack of following proper protocol," Grogan said.
Grogan confirmed the two officers he fired were Assistant Chief Stevenson and officer Kirby Madison.
The city's insurance adjuster sent a litter to the city clerk which stated, "Assistant Chief Stevenson's and officer Madison's actions seem to meet the definition of harassment/retaliation and it needs to stop now as they are exposing the city to a financial loss."
Grogan tells us the City of Patterson came to an agreement with Mincey, but neither party would disclose those details. Grogan said Chief LaSalle, who retired in March, signed it. Grogan said he refused.
"I feel like, for some reason, someone was at fault. And you go through was it Patterson or was it the officer, or was it the officer who blew the whistle?" Grogan said.
As for Mincey, most said his client's future is still uncertain.
"She wants to make sure that what happened to her doesn't happen to other women, whether they are police officers or in any other workforce," Most said.
The former Assistant Chief, Stevenson and officer Madison are suing Mayor Grogan. Grogan told 9News he plans to counter-sue for claims of malfeasance in office.
Officer Madison has filed suit in federal court, alleging he was racially harassed and discriminated against largely by Samantha Mincey and others in the department. He is represented by Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft.