A Chicago police sergeant sexually harassed an officer under his command, forcing her to have sex with him numerous times over a three-year period and then retaliating against her when she refused his demands, the officer alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.
Sgt. Gerald Breimon, a 20-year veteran of the department, began harassing Officer Kelly Hespe soon after he was assigned to the West Side’s Shakespeare District in 2008 and started on the midnight shift, according to the lawsuit.
Breimon previously had his police powers stripped for several years while he faced sex abuse charges after a woman he pulled over in September 2003 alleged he groped her under the pretense of a search and took photographs of her partially undressed. The charges were dropped in 2007 after the woman settled a civil lawsuit and then refused to testify against Breimon in criminal court.
In the current lawsuit, Hespe said that after he started at the Shakespeare District, “Breimon began using his authority as (Hespe)’s supervisor to engage in an escalating course of sexually harassing and abusive conduct.”
Breimon’s harassment started with sexually suggestive comments, “characterizing himself as Tarzan and (Hespe) as Jane,” but when Hespe objected, she learned “she would have to run a gauntlet of sexual harassment in the … district in order to ensure male officers would ‘have her back’ on calls and not refer to her as a ‘rat,’” according to the lawsuit.
After Breimon demanded that Hespe become his friend on Facebook, he used the site “to make lewd, sexual and vulgar suggestions,” according to the lawsuit. When Hespe objected, Breimon told her no one would believe her, and his mother, formerly a high-ranking police official, would “get rid” of Hespe if she complained about him.
The suit alleged that Breimon was her supervisor when he repeatedly demanded sex acts from Hespe between November 2009 and November 2012 while both were on-duty and often parked in Breimon’s squad car in secluded locations in Humboldt Park or at the Shakespeare District police station.
After Hespe began to refuse Breimon’s demands, “she was singled out by Breimon for special scrutiny and monitoring,” the suit alleged, and he told her he knew where Hespe’s family members lived. Breimon also threatened suicide when Hespe refused his sexual advances, according to the suit.
In October 2011, Breimon lost his temper while threatening Hespe, cracking the computer terminal in his squad car, and then crashed his squad car while yelling at Hespe on the phone in March 2012,the suit alleged. In both cases, he filed false department reports about the damaged equipment, the suit said.
At the end of 2012, while Hespe was trying to break off any relationship with him, Breimon threatened to talk to other officers in their district negatively about her, as well as disparage her “before all her fellow officers in an attempt to wreck her career,” according to the lawsuit.
Breimon transferred shifts in early 2013, but Hespe began having trouble with other supervisors, including a lieutenant who rode along with Hespe on her beat one night and threatened to hit her in the head with a baton if Hespe answered any questions wrong, the suit alleged. The lieutenant threatened and harassed Hespe and a sergeant who rode along with them that night did nothing to stop it, according to the suit.
Hespe suffered severe chest pains last March 9 at work and was taken by ambulance to a hospital for observation, according to the lawsuit. Hespe has been on medical leave since.
The suit alleged she has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suffers anxiety attacks, depression, nightmares and fear on seeing Chicago police squad cars.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, accused the city of facilitating “the very type of misconduct at issue here by failing to adequately punish and discipline prior instances of similar misconduct.”