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Allegations of sexual harassment within Louisville police department grow

 Two Louisville Metro Police Department cruisers are parked under an overpass in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
Three women serving with the Louisville Metro Police Department have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment from other officers.

A new claim of workplace sexual harassment by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, the third in less than a week, paints a picture of a “disturbing internal culture.”

This story includes details of sexual misconduct.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg announced Thursday that his administration is finalizing changes to the police department’s internal policies and procedures for dealing with sexual misconduct.

Greenberg’s announcement came on the heels of a new lawsuit filed against the city by LMPD Sgt. Lauren Carby, who claims she was sexually harassed and retaliated against for reporting it. Carby is the third woman to come forward with sexual misconduct allegations this month. Last week, Greenberg placed police Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel on paid suspension as an independent investigator looks at how she handled one of the misconduct claims.

At a press conference Thursday, Greenberg said he is working with Acting Chief Paul Humphrey to strengthen training around workplace sexual misconduct, as well as investigations and discipline.

“The reforms that we have been working on were not enough in this area,” he said. “We will do more, more to ensure LMPD and Louisville Metro Government is free from sexual harassment, more to transform LMPD’s culture.”

Greenberg said Humphrey already held a mandatory sexual harassment training this week for LMPD leadership.

The multiple allegations of sexual misconduct within LMPD implicate rank-and-file officers and detectives, as well as majors in senior leadership positions. The claims are another black eye for a department currently facing federal scrutiny.

New lawsuit provides more details on previous accusation

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, Lauren Carby, a 13-year veteran of LMPD, said she was sexually harassed by two of her superiors: Maj. Shannon Lauder and her husband, Lt. Jeff Lauder.

Carby said the misconduct took place at a pool party the Lauders hosted at their home in August 2020 to celebrate Shannon’s promotion. At the time, Carby worked under her in LMPD’s Special Victims Unit.

Carby alleged that Jeff attempted to kiss her at the party and “repeatedly made unwanted, unsolicited sexual advances toward her, which she repeatedly rejected.” She said Shannon knew about her husband’s behavior and encouraged Carby to start a sexual relationship with him.

Carby claims Shannon later denied the misconduct occurred, leading to Carby being labeled by fellow officers and supervisors as a liar and a gossip. She said a senior LMPD officer filed a complaint about the incident much later, in October 2022, and she was passed up for promotions and professional development opportunities in retaliation.

“Carby realized that the last years would have been tremendously easier for her professionally if she had simply slept with Jeff Lauder in 2020,” the lawsuit states.

While Shannon is at the center of Carby’s lawsuit, she is not a named party.

Shannon went public with her own claims of sexual harassment last week, which prompted Greenberg’s suspension of Gwinn-Villaorel. According to an audio recording provided by Shannon’s lawyer, she raised accusations during a leadership meeting last month, saying Maj. Brian Kuriger “sexually harassed and attacked” her. Gwinn-Villaroel promoted Kuriger less than a minute later, the recording showed.

Attorney Jared Smith, who’s representing Shannon, denied the allegations that his client and her husband themselves engaged in sexual harassment. Smith called Carby “opportunistic” in a statement to LPM News.

“Her allegations against the Lauders are unfounded and center around rumor, innuendo and lies,” Smith said. “The Lauders are shocked and appalled by her false claims.”

In his Thursday press conference, Greenberg said Kuriger, who works in LMPD’s Special Investigations Unit, was investigating the Lauders for sexually harassing Carby when Lauder accused Kuriger of doing the same.

Sexual harassment ‘pervasive’ within LMPD?

Another LMPD officer, Christine Silk, also said this week she is a victim of workplace sexual misconduct.

Silk filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court on Tuesday claiming that Dale Cottongim, a former LMPD training academy instructor, made inappropriate sexual comments about her during her first weeks on the force last year. She also claims officer Justin LeMon, who was assigned to be Silk’s field training officer, made inappropriate advances, including sending her pictures of his genitals and asking her to read a sexual fantasy he had written about her.

Silk filed complaints against both of the officers. According to The Courier Journal, an investigation found Cottongim violated policies on conduct unbecoming and courtesy, but he was exonerated of sexual harassment. Cottongim received a reprimand and was transferred out of the training division. An internal investigation into LeMon’s actions is ongoing.

Cottongim and LeMon did not respond to requests for comment sent to their LMPD email addresses Thursday night.

Like Carby, Silk is also alleging LMPD leaders created a hostile work environment and failed to take the proper steps to protect her from harassment.

“LMPD maintains a disturbing internal culture where pervasive patterns of sexual misconduct and predatory behaviors of officers have been repeatedly excused, ignored, concealed, and fostered,” Silk’s lawsuit states.

All three women — Carby, Silk and Shannon Lauder — noted that this isn’t the first time LMPD has been accused of failing officers who experience sexual misconduct at the hands of their colleagues.

In 2020, former LMPD officer Bryan Wilson used police technology to hack the phones of multiple women to steal nude pictures of them. Wilson threatened to leak the pictures to the womens’ families and employers if they didn’t send more images to him. Wilson is currently serving a 30-month sentence in federal prison for cyberstalking as well as separate incidents in which prosecutors say he and another officers threw drinks at residents while on duty.

The U.S. Department of Justice also accused LMPD of not adequately investigating officers accused of sexual misconduct and domestic violence. In its scathing report released last year, the DOJ said LMPD’s investigations “frequently deviate from Departmental policies and generally accepted investigative practices.”

Louisville Metro is currently negotiating a consent decree with the DOJ, which will act as a roadmap for reform. Under the decree, the city will be required to institute dozens of policy changes and other reforms.

If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault or harassment, contact the confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673 to be connected to a provider in your area.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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