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Lee deputies directed to 'grope' each other during detective interviews

Posted at 11:08 PM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-27 06:57:20-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Seasoned law enforcement veterans are questioning a practice that's been used at the Lee County Sheriff's Office involving deputies being instructed to grope each other during a job interview.

The Sheriff's Office is accused of telling detective candidates to grope one another while interviewing for a position in the Narcotics Division. Some say it’s a role play exercise which seems more like foreplay instead. Until recently, it has apparently been part of the standard training program.

Deputies applying for the position had to take a test and role play a drug buying scenario. Members of the narcotics division, along with detective candidates, acted as both buyers and drug dealers. According to an Internal Affairs report, 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….", which involved either breasts or genitals of the detective candidate.

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."

Balan is more than surprised to learn that groping was even part of the LCSO detective training program. He says, “I don't believe this should be part of the curriculum."

Reports show last September, not only were a female deputy's genitals fondled, but "it was being discussed by participants and members of management."  The report states, "Those discussions occurred in roll calls and other department events….a Sergeant and Lieutenants were present."

The groping incidents were also, "Discussed by members of LCSO management that her genitalia would be fondled…and she was directed to submit to the fondling by members of management."

Balan tells us, "I don't see it as professional behavior."

Stephanie Eller is running against Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott and wonders if he, or his command staff, knew what was going on. “It’s either a breakdown in communication or basically just a department that is not being properly managed."

We reached out to the Lee County Sheriff's Office for a comment but haven't heard back. We do know they've changed their training program and have decided to stop the practice of groping each other during the interview process.