LEE COUNTY - More fallout after an investigation finds Lee County deputies being directed to grope each other during job interviews.
Now a former deputy is speaking out. Adam Vaile worked as a Lee County deputy for the past 12 years and retired less than 2 weeks ago. He not only served as union president of the Lee County Deputies Association Local 6071, but says he was also directed to grope a female officer 3 years ago.
Vaile tells us, "There was a part in the interview where I did have to grab another female's breasts." At the time, Vaile was interviewing for a detective position with LCSO's Narcotics Unit.
Reports show that part of the interview process involved deputies role playing a drug buying scenario and "to make the drug deal seem real the candidate had to prove to the 'bad guys' that they were not part of Law Enforcement.”
“All of the candidates were confronted with "if you aren't a cop then grab my", referring to either the breasts or genitals of the other detective candidate.
When asked if anybody had a problem with that part of the process, Vaile told us, “I've heard of a couple of other people who had a problem with it." As a result, the union president at the time, Kevin Calderone, filed a complaint with LCSO’s Internal Affairs department on October.
Investigators determined that groping one another was an essential part of the training, helping candidates to prepare for their undercover assignments. LCSO claimed every member of the narcotics division felt it was a ‘vital’ part of their training.
However, some law enforcement veterans disagree. Fidel Balan retired after working in law enforcement in Long Island, New York for 20 years.
10 of those years were spent working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA. Balan says, "To me it's a worthless type scenario, it just doesn't make sense to me. It's not necessary in my opinion. The scenario itself, I've never seen such a thing." Vaile says, "There's like an understanding that if you're going to want that position you've got to be able to do certain things and not have a problem with it." Vaile admits he was never directed to grope a male officer.
After LCSO's internal investigation, the Sheriff decided to stop the practice of groping during interviews, admitting there are, perhaps, better ways to prepare candidates for dangerous situations.
In light of the Internal Affairs investigation, a report states the Lee County Sheriff's Office decided to "alter" the way interviews are being conducted. We requested LCSO to explain exactly what that means but so far we haven't heard back.