Cheryl Steele, Spokane’s community policing coordinator, has been cleared in the sexual harassment claim filed against her by Spokane police officer Ken Lesperance.
“As far as I know, the investigation by the police department and the city indicated the claim was unfounded,” Steele said.
Lesperance, a former neighborhood resource officer, was reassigned earlier this month to patrol duties while the department investigated misconduct allegations against him.
He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Steele said she doesn’t plan to file a countercomplaint.
“I’m not going to take any action on my own,” she said. “That’s just a whole lot of negativity, and I don’t need it.”
Police Chief Terry Mangan said the allegations against Steele involved conversations held in public places with other people around.
“All comments were made publicly and not didn’t really rise to the level of sexual harassment or improper contact,” Mangan said.
“One of the comments could have been construed as insensitive, and she has received some counseling about it,” the chief said.
Mangan said it was also taken into consideration that Lesperance filed the complaint after he himself was under investigation.
“It’s possible the individual officer was using it as retaliation,” Mangan said. “We’re looking into it.”
Steele said publicity stemming from the claim has been embarrassing, but she has used it as an opportunity to learn more about sexual harassment and plans to provide her volunteers with more training on the issue.
“I’m disappointed that someone can take a viable tool like this and use it for senseless stuff,” she said. “It makes people lose respect for the real issue of harassment.”
Sexual harassment complaints against a woman are rare. Steele said it became the subject of jokes.
“When people laugh and chuckle about it in public, I say it’s not funny at all,” she said. “There are people who are afraid to use that tool, who need to use that tool. It’s not a joke.”