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Monday, May 21, 2018
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State attorney letter: ‘Past time’ to fire Lakeland police chief

The Lakeland Police Department is “broken” and Chief Lisa Womack should be fired, Polk County State Attorney Jerry Hill wrote in a letter sent Friday to city manager Doug Thomas.

The letter, which said the department doesn’t protect citizens but puts them in danger, cites the arrest of an officer Thursday on sexual assault charges, the latest in a series of department scandals.

“It is past time for action,” he wrote. “Chief Lisa Womack continues to prove she is incapable of leading the Lakeland Police Department.”

In recent months, the police department has faced high-profile investigations regarding an sex scandal invovling several officers and an incident in which an officer asked a woman to shake out her bra during a traffic stop.

“The Lakeland Police Department has become a second- or even third-rate agency and an embarrassment to the citizens of Lakeland. It is broken,” Hill wrote.

On Thursday, Officer Julio Pagan, 31, turned himself in after being charged with armed sexual battery by a law enforcement officer and armed aggravated stalking.

According to investigators, Pagan met the victim while responding to a call in July. Police records show Pagan then returned to the woman’s home in August when she called regarding a problem with her daughter.

Hill’s letter said the case was not immediately investigated properly, allowing Pagan to batter the woman again.

Pagan was to make his first appearance before a judge Friday afternoon.

“This case has revealed, yet again, a deeper problem — one of which you have been well aware and simply chose to ignore at the public’s peril,” Hill’s letter said.

Hill also cited concerns regarding 911 dispatchers, including a case in which a citizen had to call three times to get police to respond to her finding a gun near children.

Additionally, Hill blasted the city for wasting millions of dollars to form a citizen’s committee on the department and repress a grand jury presentment in what he called an attempt to “stonewall” any action against Womack.

“You and the city have decided to take a ... course that endangers citizens,” Hill wrote.

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