Female police officer Tricia Zimmerman is filing a lawsuit against the city of Columbus and department administrators, alleging that nude pictures of her that she sent to her boyfriend, Columbus Officer Jeffrey Lazar, were illicitly obtained and circulated among officers during an internal investigation.
As the Daily Mail reports, Zimmerman said the photos were taken when she was off-duty, and shared on personal phones so she did nothing wrong. Zimmerman is alleging that Lazar’s ex-wife was trying to set her up, pinching her estranged husband’s phone and taking it to Internal Affairs, alleging that both officers had sex while on official duty.
Zimmerman is saying that investigators who were looking into the “unsubstantiated claims” that fellow officers printed her pictures and shared them among themselves, leading to debasing comments from supervising officers, jokes about sending the photos to gossip magazines, and workplace resentment. Zimmerman said she was also being passed over for overtime and duty assignments, accusing the chief of police refusing to act even when he was briefed on what was going on.
Zimmerman’s lawyer, John Camillus, said, “They printed out the pictures they passed them around to other people. They made lewd comments to our client about them and when our client complained about the way things were being handled, they started retaliating against her in terms of her job responsibilities. She’s the one who’s assigned for up to four hours per shift. It is simply to get back at her for making a fuss as they see it.” Camillus said the department denied his client the assignments she enjoyed and was placed on guard duty. Zimmerman says she has suffered emotional distress with her reputation destroyed and career hanging by a thread, and is asking to be awarded damages for her harrowing ordeal.
Her boyfriend, Officer Jeffrey Lazar, filed a separate federal lawsuit claiming that the phone search was inappropriate because Internal Affairs never obtained a warrant before invading his privacy and going through his phone. Lazar is saying that his fourth amendment rights have been violated.
Police authorities are denying the claims in the lawsuits filed by the officers, saying that they were objective when they acted and believed their conduct was in sync with the law.
Zimmerman is not the first police officer to whip up a storm over naked pictures. Officer Sean Carrington, 35, was also accused of forwarding six explicit pictures of a 23-year-old woman to his phone while booking her into a county jail, according to the Huffington Post. Harrington and his partner had stopped the woman driving a white sedan after making a risky lane change. She had flunked a sobriety test and was booked for driving under the influence and taken to jail.
The woman was being booked on DUI charges when Harrington sent pictures of her in different states of undress to his phone. “Investigators say since the woman’s alcohol was three times above the legal limit she might have given her password to the officer without any recollection, but maintain the officer did not have a legal warrant to search her phone.”
Ricky Madsen, attorney for the woman, said that they “think it’s a horrendous breach of public trust. We believe Officer Carrington committed a clandestine and illegal intrusion into her privacy which is unspeakable considering his sworn duty to protect the public. My client remains understandably distraught as we wait further information about who else may possess the photos.”
A record of the photos was deleted from the woman’s iCloud service that synced with her iPad and iPhone, she noticed that the numbers were sent to a mysterious phone number in the 707 area code when she was being detained by police. When she investigated further, the woman found out the number belonged to the officer that arrested her. Investigators got a warrant to search Harrington’s house, seizing his Apple laptop and iPhone 5S, they found instant messages, text messages, and explicit photographs all belonging to the woman. Harrington did not serve any jail time, but has since resigned from the police force.