Sex scandal surfaces in Polk County's anti-sex police department

Eberle, a married mother of two, was initially hesitant to come forward for fear of hurting the officers' families. She later decided to speak out because she felt "victimized and abandoned" by the department.

In a recent press conference, Eberle's attorney, David Linesch, issued this statement:

"She was a target. She was weak. And they knew that they could take advantage of that, so they preyed upon her. They preyed upon her, and that's what's so sick about it."

Polk County's state attorney, Jerry Hill, had this to say in a 59-page report of his investigation:

"We find the conduct of a number of sworn officers, including some officers of rank, to be at best a waste of taxpayer dollars. At worst their actions indicate a moral bankruptcy that exists amongst some individuals within the ranks at the Lakeland Police Department."

Seven officers have admitted to having sexual contact with Eberle. Three sergeants have denied her claims and refuse to take polygraph tests.

Eberle is on paid administrative leave. Three city employees have resigned and others have retired. Five officers have been placed on either administrative leave or modified duty.

"We find the State Attorney's report on the behavior of the LPD officials to be shocking, revolting and a clear cause for action," wrote Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland. "A culture which, at best lacks professionalism and at worst encourages the reckless behavior of LDP officials, is apparently pervasive and is an embarrassment to our community. This culture has unfortunately eroded the public's confidence in the Lakeland Police Department."

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has been asked to help clean up the department.

In response to the investigation, Judd had this to say to the AP in an email:

"My whole family is from Lakeland. I grew up here. I care about Lakeland, its reputation, and the quality of life we enjoy here. We cannot lose sight that there are many fine and hardworking officers at LPD who are outstanding public servants."

click to enlarge Sue Eberle - Facebook
Sue Eberle

click to enlarge Sue Eberle - Facebook
Sue Eberle

A civilian crime analyst for the Lakeland police department recently detailed a story to investigators of how she had consensual and coerced sex with nearly a dozen co-workers who were both on and off-duty. These liaisons allegedly occurred in police and fire stations, patrol cars, motels, and even in a parking lot after a memorial service for a slain officer.

Sue Eberle, 37, explained to investigators how officers and some supervisors pressured her for sex, groped her at work, and even sent her sext messages. Speaking through her attorney, Eberle said she was unable to fend off the sexual advances because she has been a victim of sexual assault in the past.

Scroll to read more Tampa Bay News articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]