These Women Were Hired For Undercover Operations. Then, They Were Sexually Exploited By Their Bosses
According to a lawsuit filed May 23, high-ranking police officers in Texas, USA are being accused of sexually assaulting women who were their subordinates. Per the lawsuit, these officers strategically selected “young, attractive, and Latina” deputies for undercover operations — and proceeded to subject them to “disgusting abuse” and “sexual exploitation” under the guise of performing human trafficking stings. Three former and current officers with Harris County Precinct 1 say that when they attempted to report the behaviour and asked to be moved to another department, they were “demoted and mocked,” according to The Washington Post. In a statement sent to Refinery29, Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen said he “would never allow a hostile work environment as alleged.”
Rosen is among three officers who are being accused, along with Assistant Chief Chris Gore and Lieutenant Shane Rigdon. According to courthouse documents, the three women plaintiffs claimed they were instructed to wear revealing clothes to “bachelor parties,” where their superiors would pressure them to drink in large quantities and perform lap dances for them. These events were supposed to mimic events full of sex workers and clients, in an attempt to attract (and then arrest) real sex workers. But they also created an environment for undercover, high-ranking officers to abuse younger, less experienced officers.
“My sensitivity toward victims remains our highest priority. To this day, not one of these plaintiffs has ever made a formal complaint. Each employee interviewed was given the opportunity, in a safe environment, to express any concerns,” Rosen said in a statement. “This lawsuit is an effort to impugn the good reputation of the hardworking men and women of the Precinct One Constable’s Office.”
Liz Gomez, one of the plaintiffs, said that the misconduct started when Gore asked her to purchase and pose in revealing outfits, made comments about her outfit not being “slutty” enough, and took her to a sex toy shop to buy “props” with county funds. Later, at the parties, he would lie on top of her, touch her breasts, and lick her body, all while “wearing only boxer shorts, fully aroused.” After the stings, the plaintiffs allege that Rigdon reviewed all the surveillance footage and deleted recordings that would incriminate Gore.
Gomez asked to be removed from the unit after two stings. “After ridicule and denigration, her request was reluctantly granted, and she was subjected to continuous harassment from her superiors for ‘not having what it takes,’” says the lawsuit.
But the abuse continued well after Gomez’s transfer. Two months later, she was replaced by Marissa Sanchez, who reported similar behaviour from Gore. She claimed he took off her bra, instructed her to perform lap dances, and licked, touched, and sat on her. Like Gomez, Sanchez complained about Gore’s conduct; she says she was then transferred and given “less prestigious duties.”
A third officer, Felecia McKinney, recalls Rosen sending her to a massage business, ordering her to make an appointment with a “known sexual deviant,” and telling her to “wait to be sexually assaulted to give the raid signal.” McKinney says she was raped, then “all but ignored” as she drove herself to a sexual assault exam.
“Young female deputies [who] were handpicked for ‘undercover operations’ under the guise of legitimate police work were molested and traumatized by their intoxicated male commanding officers for their own sexual gratification,” states 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.”
Jacquelyn Aluotto, the lawsuit’s fourth plaintiff, says Rosen hired her to help human trafficking survivors in 2019. She quickly discovered that Gore’s team was “devoting almost no energy or resources to solving cases, giving victims care, following up with trafficked children, or making high-up-the-chain arrests,” and instead, “nearly all of the unit's energy went into the planning of the aforementioned ‘bachelor party’ stings at Gore’s pleasure.” Aluotto says she reported the misconduct to Rosen in 2020, but she was quietly transferred. When she attempted to bring her concerns to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, she was told the issue should be addressed “internally.”
Bill Ogden, an attorney representing two of the women, told The Washington Post that the trauma and abuse has “ruined” their lives and careers. “These women wanted to show that they had what it takes to make a difference, but Chief Gore and his lieutenants were really saying, ‘How far are you willing to let us go for these stings?’” Ogden said. “It has affected them for promotions, and they have to live with what happened to them.”