Mesa officers accuse sergeant of sexual harassment
PHOENIX — A group of Mesa police officers said Thursday they filed a notice of claim accusing a superior of sending them sexually explicit text messages.
The officers said even after some of them reported Sgt. Jeffery Neese for sexual harassment in 2018, the department only demoted him rather than firing him.
The group, which included six women and a male officer who said Neese harassed his wife, asked the city for $150,000 each in damages, totaling more than $1 million.
“I didn’t come forward to destroy someone’s career. I didn’t come forward to out someone,” Officer Elisha Gibbs said at a press conference.
“I came forward because I made that decision when I found out last July that I wasn’t the only one receiving those messages.”
Gibbs said she alerted human resources to Neese’s behavior after she found out he drove a new recruit home from a party and allegedly sent her messages about “wanting more.”
.@MesaPD Officer Elisha Gibbs describing her experience with Sgt. Jeffery Neese. @KTAR923
Gibbs also says, Neese would make comments to her about thinking of her and her wife making out. pic.twitter.com/t4Lk0RpWUh
— Ali Vetnar (@Ali_Vetnar) July 18, 2019
Gibbs was also one of three officers whom Neese allegedly asked for a photo of because he wanted to draw them as superheroes.
According to the claim, Neese instead drew the three women naked and then sent it to them.
Officer Ashley Elliff said the messages she was sent left her feeling “embarrassed, disgusted and sad.”
“At that moment I was staring at the messages, wondering why he had sent them to me,” she said at the conference.
“Not only did Sgt. Neese disrespect me by sending the messages, he had also disrespected my husband and my family.”
The women said that when confronted about the messages, Neese claimed he didn’t remember them and that they were fabricated.
According to the claim, after five officers filed a complaint with human resources in October 2018, alleging inappropriate behavior as far back as 2014, Neese was removed from the SWAT squad.
After a sixth complaint in May, Neese was demoted to officer, the claim stated.
The claim alleges the city of Mesa failed to take appropriate action by leaving Neese on staff.
“As a matter of protocol, the Mesa Police Department does not comment when there is potential and/or pending litigation,” a department spokesman told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.