To my shame, like lots of other people, I’ve made a couple jokes about the “sex” scandal at LPD. I was particularly proud of my cute little “and you thought red light cameras were about traffic” snark on Facebook a couple days ago.
I was an ignorant idiot.
If you have not read the actual State Attorney’s report about what’s happened at LPD, you need to. I’ll warn you. It is not easy. But it will help cut through the embarrassing mush of words and pointlessness of Monday morning’s dog-and-pony show. There is nothing funny or salacious or bureaucratic about the horror here. And that’s what it is. Horror.
Doubt me? Well just take a look at the two passages that follow from the investigative report. They are summaries of Sue Eberle’s statements. The first passage documents the ongoing sexual and physical abuse she suffered over many years as a child –starting at age 7. The second, well, you’ll see. I’ve quoted them verbatim with the exception of a few names from Eberle’s extended family I left out. Consider the juxtaposition of these paragraphs. And look into the face of what your police officers did in your name, wearing your badges, and carrying your guns.
Chronology of Sue Eberle’s abuse and early childhood years
1983 – [Mother and Father] divorced. Father was an alcoholic. Not many good memories of early years.
1983 – Mother moved Eberle and her younger brother to Quincy, Illinois. The authorities pulled Eberle out of school and sent her to live with an uncle.
1990 – Between 1983 and 1990 Eberle detailed multiple incidents, starting at age seven, of being sexually molested.
1990 – She was sent to live with her father and stepmother in Illinois. Both her father and stepmom were alcoholics. Her stepmom was very abusive.
1990 – Attempted Suicide and Self-Injury – Eberle began running away. She tried to kill herself twice on her bike running in front of cars and playing chicken with a train. She began “cutting”. She stated that she was inflicting pain on herself to “escape.”
1991 – She was sent back to live with her Mom and Stepdad. They moved to Lakeland, FL. Her Stepdad was still very abusive.
1993 – She moved in with Ed Eberle and married him a short time later. They remain married today and have 15 and 19 year old sons.
*Eberle said she constantly moving from house to house and family to family with no stability. She estimated she attended over twenty different schools throughout her childhood.
Now think about this:
On one occasion, Eberle said she feels like Longaberger violated her and she believes it was a form of rape. During sex Longaberger was being very physical with her. He was having sex with her from behind when he without forewarning or permission inserted his penis into her anus. She pulled away from him and he laughed it off. She did not believe it was funny and told him so. Eberle said she allowed Longaberger “to finish” by having sex vaginally again with him and then he left.
It should be noted that Sgt. Longaberger denies this particular incident — but not others — happened. It should also be noted that Jerry Hill’s investigators do not find him credible as a witness and, for the time being, will not accept his testimony in cases it prosecutes.
And what did Hill say about Eberle’s credibility?: “Time and again Sue Eberle’s allegations were validated through direct testimony and corroborating evidence.”
Sue Eberle overcame a childhood existence that few of us can imagine. She made something of herself, while no doubt carrying the endless images and memories of people with power over her raping her however and whenever they pleased with no hope of help. Despite that, she kept her life moving when so many others find ruin. She made a marriage and a family.
And then she got a job with the police, serving the public with the safest and most protective of employers, right? Her co-workers in uniform would honor and serve her? Nope.
A drop of sexual weakness got in the water, and they swarmed her like pirhannas. For years. She was the office toy. Over and over and over again, as you read the report, you get accounts of men in uniform pushing a chronic childhood sexual abuse victim to do something consensual and degrading with them. Never even a hint of romance. Over and over and over again. And over and over again she consents, this chronic childhood sexual abuse victim. This woman whose first sexual experience was a rape at 7.
In many cases, the men had direct tangible power over her. Consider Officer George Vidal, in charge of recruiting and with a vote on who got to go the police academy in 2006, when Eberle, a civilian, wanted to go. Sex in the closet. And so it went, on and on.
Why did she consent so often to so many? “Eberle said she always said yes because that is what she’s supposed to do,” says the report. Is that consistent with what we understand of the fallout from child sexual abuse?
I can hear the counterpoint. Sue Eberle’s no victim; she’s “flirtatious”. Virtually every cop called her that. And who knows if all those childhood abuse allegations are even true? Takes two to tango. Etc. Etc.
So sure, slut shame away if that makes you feel better.
But it’s pretty clear that Jerry Hill and his investigators believe her. I do too. And even if you take what the officers say at face value, there’s not even a hint that they ever thought of Sue Eberle as anything more than a receptacle.
Their shame, to the extent they have any, comes from their own betrayals of their own families. None of them seem to have ever bothered to ask themselves if they were hurting a woman who seemed to have a fraught sex life. She was nothing more than a target of opportunity. An easy one.
So let me ask you: How the hell do you think they look at the members of the “public” they serve?
Here’s how Jerry Hill puts it:
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.
This was not people having affairs. That happens in every organization. This was a prison gang with badges circling a weakling. It was torture.
You doubt me? Imagine that Sue Eberle had a childhood disease that left her in chronic pain. And suppose her co-workers kicked her over and over again for years. What would you call that? We don’t have a statute for callousness and gratuitous cruelty. There’s no prosecuting this. But if you think child sexual abuse victims are capable of consenting to giving oral sex in a squad car to an officer who outranks them, I don’t want to hang out with you.
This is not a sex scandal. This is a scandal of systemic, state-sponsored cruelty against the vulnerable. For police, that is sinful. It’s made all the worse by the fact that none of the perpetrators look like monsters. They are well-known members of the community, who acted in our names. We paid and equipped them. We’re still paying and equipping many of them. And they just did what everybody else was doing. No one ever stopped them. It’s a reminder that we’re all monsters in waiting if no one stops us.
After today’s absurd and impotent city commission festival of platitudes, I see no evidence that any “leader” in this city — except maybe Don Selvage — has the courage and none have the power to stop the rot at that agency. There was talk of a “healing” committee today. Please. We don’t need to heal; we need to atone for what’s been done in our name and with our money and our power.
Shut LPD down. Give the tax money to Grady Judd. Let him hire the “good” LPD officers, of whom there are surely many. (Officer Mosser recently did a fine job on my hit and run crash.)
I want to thank Sue Eberle for giving the unvarnished, horrifying truth of her role at LPD in the last few years. It took great courage. She’s been publicly humiliated and shamed. Think what it’s like for her to walk into Publix. I suspect huge numbers of people think she’s the problem. If I’m not mistaken, The Ledger managed to print her photo while not printing all the guys. (A screwup in an otherwise excellent record. And correct me on that if I’m wrong.)
The excruciating detail Eberle provided lets you look square in the eyes of the beasts we all are when it comes to sex and power. That view is a gift if we accept it.
I also want to apologize to Sue Eberle.
I’m sorry that my society and yours did not protect you at any point in your life. I’m sorry that the people most in need of protection and human kindness tend to attract viciousness. I’m sorry that men who swear to protect and serve exploited your every weakness. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And I’m sorry I made a joke about it. I will never do it again.
Many people call themselves Christians in this community. I’m not really one of them. But I’m praying for you and your family nonetheless. And I would think this offers true Christians a chance to walk in Christ’s footsteps. In any event, I pray that you find and enjoy an ounce of human kindness from this community. It might be your first.