Former police officer sues West Jordan City for alleged harassment, retaliation
A former West Jordan police officer has filed a $1 million lawsuit in federal court against the city and several members of its police force alleging the city retaliated against him after he filed a labor and sexual-harassment complaint.
Aaron D. Jensen went to work for the West Jordan Police Department in 1996 and alleges that within a year an associate subjected him to a hostile work environment that included crude jokes and comments that he was gay, which eventually led others in the department to engage in similar behavior. Jensen attempted to notify superiors about the harassment, "even to the point of standing and yelling in a staff meeting in early 2001 that such behavior was inappropriate and he was tired of it."
In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Jensen alleges the abuse continued even after he married in 2003. He alleges that notes and messages were left for him saying, "you're gay" and that one officer on several occasions showed him pornographic material seized as evidence during crime investigations and subjected him to verbal abuse.
The hostility led Jensen to suffer panic attacks, stress and depression, the court document states. Jensen filed a complaint with the Utah Labor Commission about the abuse and, in April 2009, received an $80,000 settlement contingent upon him resigning from the West Jordan Police Department.
As part of the settlement, the police department agreed to not retaliate against Jensen, the document states. Despite that, the city immediately began an investigation into Jensen that resulted in him being charged with felony drug possession and misuse of public money a week after the settlement was signed. He was subsequently fired by his new employer in May 2010 because of the allegations.
Jensen alleges that one officer named in his labor and sexual-harassment complaint led the city's drug and misuse of public money investigation against him before it was turned over to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office. In December 2010, two of the three charges were dismissed at a preliminary hearing. The third charge was transferred to the Davis County District Attorney's Office because of a conflict of interest, where it too was eventually dropped.
Jensen also alleges the city, after being contacted for an employment recommendation, falsely told potential employers that he had been fired by the police department and was a drug dealer and thief. The city also has instigated a Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training investigation, Jensen claims, that has prevented him from obtaining work as a police officer.
City officials could not be reached for comment.