Pray for Sue Eberle; Atone for LPD’s Torture

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.)

Atone.

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.

13 thoughts on “Pray for Sue Eberle; Atone for LPD’s Torture

  1. Bullies and victims–history repeats itself again and again. Eberle and her family are surely in great pain. Shame on The Ledger for publishing Eberle’s photo.

    These revelations of LPD officers exercising poor judgment and lewd battery towards women should give all Lakelanders pause. I wonder if we’ve only seen/heard the tip of the iceberg. Are there more deeds waiting to be uncovered?

    I know several officers at the LPD. They are good people and work hard and selflessly put themselves in harms way for the sake of their community. I do hope that the bad apples are charged and prosecuted.

    Our mayor is a wimp as are most of our city commissioners. I love this town, and I am deeply disturbed and saddened by the recent wave of revelations.

    Regarding these matters, perhaps tax money would be well spent by allowing Grady Judd’s detectives investigate these crimes. I am sure there is no precedent for allowing a county sheriff investigate a municipal PD.

  2. Billy, what a powerful piece you’ve written. I am very impressed with your ability to show the human side of this situation. Which I feel is being lost. We disagree on how our Mayor, Commissioners, and City staff are handling this situation but our feelings are the same – the micro is a reflection of the macro.

    Very few of my close friends know this, but thankfully because of an organization called Lauren’s Kids I am healing more and more. I was sexually assaulted when I was four/five, too young to remember exact age?

    The first time my parents were in the other room, right on the other side of the wall. It wasn’t until I was 36 years old that I told them.

    You conveyed so well the effects this experience has on someone. You grow up not knowing how to set boundaries. People are able to take advantage of your willingness to please. It’s disgusting.

    Those people aren’t always people in positions of authority with power over you; because when you’re a sexual victim everyone has power over you whether they know it or not. Until you do what Sue did and start standing up for yourself. (Ironic we share the same name.)

    I whole heartily agree the LPD is dealing with major issues. Where we disagree is how the whole LPD is being thrown in the mix?

    In my case the college kid’s mom walked in and saw what he was doing. She yelled at me to get out of the room. Then went back to the party she was hosting. No other adult knew what happened. I don’t blame them for not knowing. How could they? All guilty parties were silent. This is why I never told. They were my ‘superiors’.

    I found out years later he had done the same to my older sisters who never warned me. I don’t blame them for never telling me because I know how shameful they must have felt too.

    The purpose of me sharing this is to reiterate how human this story is. When the micro (individual) changes for the better, the macro (the organization) by default will too.

    We cannot blame the organization for not protecting us if they didn’t know. Once my parents knew things started to change. At a personal level it started the healing process. That’s where I feel we are at now, a healing process.

    I wish this had never occurred. Not to Sue, not to the honorable men and women who protect and serve (yes I said honorable because I believe there are more honorable people then the schmucks we’re hearing about), and not to our city. But it has. So let’s start the healing process and get rid of the negativity. Let’s heal together!

    I know you well enough to know you hate all this “why can’t we all just get along” stuff. My question to you is, why not? Wouldn’t our city be better for it?

    Going back to the micro being a reflection of the macro, think of the ripple effect we can have if we positively stood by the men and women, including Chief Womack, who did not know what was going on and who serve our community valiantly? Please don’t let human behavior ruin us spiritually.

    Your call for action is for LPD to ‘atone’ for their actions. The only people who can atone are the perpetrators. This is not black and white, cut and dry. Human behavior hardly ever is.

    My prayer to Sue is this; we all have lessons to learn on this earth to help us become better spiritual beings. We sisters share this spiritual lesson to learn to love ourselves more than wanting to please others by honoring ourselves and setting boundaries. As painful as what you are going through right now is know this, you are a spiritual warrior who can now be your authentic self. I pray you now will be able to hold your head up high and serve as an example to others that you are taking control of your life from this day forward. I am proud of you.

  3. Billy, it is rare that you and I ever agree on a topic (yet I still love you) but this is right on and I am so glad you wrote this and have shared. My heart just aches for Sue and I hope that she finds the help she needs.

    As for what to do with LPD again I have to agree with you. Since the union has made it so difficult for the current police chief to do her job and clean up the department it is time to disband and start all over.

  4. Billy, are you aware of what the Sheriff is doing to children at the jail? Mentally ill children? Children as young as 8 years old? They pepper spray them for singing when they aren’t supposed to, put them in cages and if that doesn’t work, put them in sensory deprivation cells for weeks on end. They are as much savages as anybody at LPD.

  5. Well said. No one can keeps secrets like this for 7 years. I will not accept the fact that the Police Chief and her underlings did not know about this. They just chose to look the other way. They should all be terminated. It’s just time to clean house. That is the only way to repair this problem. This problem cannot be fixed by the people who caused it.

  6. I’ve known Sue Eberle for 9 years, as she & her family were my next door neighbors, until recently. Sue is such a humble and meek person, and sadly, I can see where manipulative, dogmatic, whoremongers would and could take advantage of her.
    I am SICKENED and DISGUSTED to know our “Protectors, Peace Officers, Law Enforcement,” whatever “title” you give them, would be so willing to victimize someone who has OBVIOUSLY been a victim, of those she SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TRUST!!
    I genuinely pray Sue and her family can get past this. I pray God brings her healing, that’s been long overdue.
    As for the “men” in question, I’m a firm believer in just desserts. However, I pray none of your wives, daughters, sisters or friends EVER meet up with pieces of filth, such as yourselves…heaven forbid you should have to see the face of a broken woman, because of another man’s lack of respect for humanity and a Lady! So thankful God IS a just God!
    Thank you for bringing a human touch to this situation, as Sue’s truly good name & heart, should be revealed & protected.

    Ronni Rivera

  7. I’ve read this multiple times, and while I sympathize with Eberle, you’ve taken away her personal responsibility by painting her as the victim of all victims. If she is so weak and feeble minded, how can she hold down a full time job or raise two children? Why doesn’t she have a full time caretaker to make sure she makes good decisions day in and day out.

    Eberle is a willing victim who could have left the police department at any time, but chose to stick around. Have you considered that she liked the attention? She was able to pick and choose who she had sex with and even told a couple of men no. She’s not as dumb as you presume.

    Also remember, she didn’t bother to come forward as a victim until she got caught at Carpenters Home Church. Now she’s been humiliated and wants some money. We all thought she was a whore until she made the child molestation claims, and now she’s playing rhe role of a martyr. It’s an insult to the millions of women who have been molested or raped, but go on to lead mature, responsible and professional lives.

    This city got played and now you can thank LPD leadership and the police union for what might result in a large payout at taxpayers expense.

  8. When my mother was Director of the YWCA in New Orleans one of the kids in Summer Camp soaked
    a bag of Potato Chips in saliva then offered them to a special needs student and smiled and laughed
    while she ate them. 35 ears later I am still ang
    ry and disturbed by the in incident. We should all feel a sense of outrage about this as
    it is no different…We have been raised to defend and protect the weak and the infirmed…not pray on them. Thhis is only made worse by the Castigation heaped on the lady and her family.

  9. Billy, Thank you for so eloquently saying how I feel every time I hear someone call Mrs. Eberle a whore. Maybe she will finally have victory in her life through her stance against LPD’s toxic culture.

  10. Thank you whoever you are!! Thank you for standing up for my family member and seeing this from the victims perspective. Sue is an amazing woman, wife, mother, sister, cousin, and daughter. Thank you for realizing that people is Sue’s positions are in fact weak and controllable. My cousin was preyed upon and not treated fairly. Her position as the “play thing” or “old toy you only get out when you have a need for it” has been something that has unfortunately followed her since childhood. I want to thank everyone in lakeland who understands what it is to be the victim!!! And I want to thank everyone there who believes the truth!! The plain and simple fact is a member of my family was used. Sue is anything but a “whore”. And to those of you who think that of her, how about you count your own sins before you cast the first stone. I an extremely happy for the millions of people in this country who have never had to deal with the pain, shame, and feelings of loss that come when a person is allowing you to support your family and children better than you ever have before, be put in the position of being made to feel like an object and a thing your entire childhood. And tell me you would have done something differently when put in her position. Sue did and complied with what she felt she had to do to keep her job and keep supporting her family. For the person who asked “how if she was so weak and simple minded did she take care of two children while holding down a full time job” she did what she felt she had to do. Sue would do anything to keep her children safe, healthy, and happy. Unfortunately people who have been trusted to uphold the good standing of the lakeland community took advantage of that. If I lived in lakeland I myself would be disgusted to know the people I trust to keep me safe, the people my children look up too, the people who are supposed to be the best of the community did something so vile to a vulnerable human being. We are all human and we all make bad choices and stupid decisions if put in Sue’s position I would have reacted differently, sue did what she felt she had to do to make it through. Sue did what she has done since childhood and learned to cope and deal with her issues silently. I as her family member and as a person In general am proud to say I know sue and will always love her. All I ask is that people put themselves in the position of a lifelong victim before making snap judgments and labeling her with hateful words. And again I would like to thank everyone who does understand and who continues to stand up and by sue in this difficult time. God bless you all!

  11. I read most of the report. All the cops are creeps and need to be gone. The City commish needs to get real. However, it seems in some cases, Mrs. Eberle pursued the idiots. Is she a victim? Sure. Did she enjoy the sex? Seems so in many cases. Her poor husband had to live with her while she was emailing photos of her vagina?

    The thing I cannot understand is the failure of the investigators to recommend action against those creeps.

    No simple questions, no simple answers.

  12. I suspect Mrs. Eberle will come out the hero in this scenario eventually.

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