Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

Accused of harassing fellow officer, Clearwater cop quits with $25,000

CLEARWATER — A police officer who was once disciplined for kissing an underage girl on the cheek at a mall resigned last month amid accusations that he made inappropriate sexual comments to a fellow officer.

As part of his separation agreement from the city, former Clearwater police Officer Eric Eisenhardt was paid $25,000, given a retirement plaque and received a letter from Chief Dan Slaughter commemorating his 13 years of service, according to the ex-officer’s personnel file.

In exchange, Eisenhardt agreed not to file any legal claims against the city. The agreement also called for the Police Department to close the internal investigation of Eisenhardt’s inappropriate comments with a finding of "no conclusion" — neither sustaining nor disproving the allegation.

The investigation started last year after a female officer confided in two colleagues that Eisenhardt had made inappropriate sexual remarks to her. Three more incidents were described in the investigation.

In his statement to investigators, Eisenhardt denied the allegations. He said the other officer made them up to get off a shift they were slated to share that was inconvenient for her.

Eisenhardt could not be reached for comment Friday. Kevin Hayslett, the attorney who represented him in the investigation, said this was "a classic he-said, she-said" case and that he believes his client.

"How do we know who the victim is in our society?" Hayslett said. "The person who gets paid."

Slaughter declined to comment on the case, other than to say the investigation was complete and speaks for itself.

"I’m not interested in my female officer having to go through any type of public humiliation," he said. "I’m very sensitive to the employee that I have."

The female officer was not identified in the investigation. According to the report, she said Eisenhardt first made inappropriate remarks to her in September 2016. She said it happened while she met with Eisenhardt to sign a Christmas card for their supervisor.

The officer told colleagues about the incident, according to the investigation. She later told a corporal, who reported it up the chain of command.

The officer described other incidents to investigators. In one encounter, she said she brushed against him while they were responding to a call and apologized; he then told her: "You can bump into me any time."

She also said Eisenhardt called her "bad girl" and "dirty girl" while the two officers were responding to calls.

When asked why she didn’t tell her supervisor, the officer said she didn’t want to report allegations against a senior officer and didn’t want to get Eisenhardt in trouble.

During his interview, Eisenhardt said one of the reasons he believes he was targeted by the other officer stemmed from a July incident in which he kissed an underage girl on the cheek.

That also resulted in an internal investigation which sustained the complaint against Eisenhardt. He was a corporal then and on duty when he spoke to a group of six girls outside Westfield Countryside mall, according to the investigative report. He challenged one of them to an arm-wrestling match, the report said, then hugged her and kissed her on the cheek.

The grandmother of one of the girls reported the incident. In an interview, the girl said the kiss made her feel "uncomfortable and rapey."

Eisenhardt said it was "a momentary lapse of judgment that he regretted," according to the investigation.

In August, he received a written reprimand and was stripped of the rank of corporal.

In the chief’s letter commemorating Eisenhardt’s time with the department, Slaughter lauded Eisenhardt’s achievements as a detailed and empathetic investigator while working in traffic enforcement and as a detective on misdemeanor cases. He singled out an incident in which Eisenhardt took care of a pet goldfish for a woman he had arrested on a warrant.

"I wish you well as you close your law enforcement career with the Clearwater Police Department," Slaughter wrote, "and embark on the next chapter of your life."

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at kvarn@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.

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