HOUSTON – Three female deputies filed a federal lawsuit Monday accusing a Texas constable of turning the office’s undercover operations into a “booze-fueled playground for sexual exploitation.”
The deputies, who either work or worked for the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office in Houston, alleged women were subjected to unwarranted touching and kissing, molestation and sexual ridicule during their work with the office’s human trafficking unit.
The lawsuit alleges the office of Constable Alan Rosen set up undercover sting operations that were supposed to ultimately arrest those behind sex trafficking businesses. But those operations turned more into parties where officers drank heavily and the female deputies, who were given little to no training in undercover work, were fondled and kissed by their supervisory officer or were told to give lap dances to other male deputies.
The lawsuit alleges that in another undercover operation at a massage parlor, one of the female deputies was told that to make an arrest she needed to be sexually assaulted by a suspect. The deputy did not get any support from the constable’s office after her assault, according to the lawsuit.
Cordt Akers, one of the attorneys for the women, called the allegations “some of the most unspeakable sexual police misconduct that any of us have ever seen.”
The lawsuit alleges Rosen and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office were told about what was happening by a victims’ advocate working with the human trafficking unit, but they took no action.
“We need to end corruption and (complicity) in people in power,” Jacquelyn Aluotto, the victims’ advocate and who filed the lawsuit along with the deputies, said at a news conference. Aluotto alleges she was essentially fired as her hours were cut to zero after she told authorities what happened to the deputies.
In a statement, Rosen said an internal affairs investigation his office conducted found no violations of law or policy and the women who filed the lawsuit never submitted a formal complaint in the case.
“I have a zero-tolerance stance against sexual assault and sexual harassment and would never allow a hostile work environment as alleged," Rosen said. “This lawsuit is an effort to impugn the good reputation of the hard-working men and women of the Precinct One Constable’s Office. I believe our system of due process works and that justice and truth will prevail as facts in this case come to light."
“In this matter, our sex crimes division quickly asked Constable Pct. 1 Internal Affairs to investigate whether there was evidence of a crime and Ms. Aluotto has represented she contacted the Texas Rangers. Nothing has been presented to prosecutors by either agency,” said Dane Schiller, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Constables and their deputies are licensed peace officers who have the same powers as regular police officers but also have the added responsibility of civil law enforcement. Rosen’s office covers parts of central and north Houston.
The lawsuit alleges that to make human trafficking arrests, the constable’s office set up “bachelor party stings” in which the female deputies would pose as prostitutes in order to arrest sex workers and lead authorities to their handlers.
But the undercover operations became “sexually-charged” stings and a way for an assistant chief and others to fondle, kiss and ridicule the female deputies, according to the lawsuit.
“What began as an idea for ‘bachelor party’ prostitution stings soon grew into a booze-fueled playground for sexual exploitation in which young, untrained deputies were subject to disgusting abuse,” according to the lawsuit.
Aluotto learned the female deputies were being victimized and that the human trafficking unit was not focused on solving cases and helping victims but on organizing the bachelor party stings, according to the lawsuit.
Aluotto said she and the deputies have already received threats to their careers.
“We will not be silenced. We will continue to advocate and we will fight for our rights and others,” she said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70