CHICAGO (MCT) — Kelly Hespe had been a Chicago police officer since 2001 and says she was happy in her work on the midnight shift at the Shakespeare District on the West Side — until Sgt. Gerald Breimon became her supervisor in late 2008.
Not long after, Hespe alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, Breimon began to engage in an escalating course of sexual harassment and abusive conduct. Hespe said she was eventually forced to have sex with Breimon numerous times while the two were on duty over the next three years. When she tried to end the relationship, he became abusive and retaliated against her, the lawsuit alleged.
"I didn't feel that I had anybody that I could go to (for help)," Hespe said at a news conference at which she generally maintained her composure, though her voice quavered at times as she detailed allegations not spelled out in the lawsuit.
"I was terrified of him, that he would harm me or my family," the 42-year-old mother of three told reporters at the West Loop office of her attorney, Daniel Herbert.
Hespe has been on medical leave from the department since she suffered severe chest pains last March at work and was taken by ambulance to a hospital for observation, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleged she has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suffers anxiety attacks, depression, nightmares and fear when seeing Chicago police squad cars.
Breimon, a 20-year veteran of the department, had his police powers stripped for several years while he faced sex abuse charges after a woman he pulled over in September 2003 alleged he groped her under the pretense of a search. The criminal charges were dropped in 2007 after the woman settled a civil lawsuit with Breimon and the city and then failed to cooperate with prosecutors in criminal court.
Breimon did not return a phone call seeking comment, and police officials declined comment.
"We take all allegations seriously but cannot offer comment on ongoing internal investigations," department spokesman Adam Collins wrote in an email. He later added that Breimon is still assigned to the Shakespeare District.
The lawsuit was filed against the city, Breimon and another of Hespe's supervisors. The suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, accuses the city of facilitating "the very type of misconduct at issue here" by failing to adequately punish similar wrongdoing.
The lawsuit alleges that Breimon's harassment started with sexually suggestive comments, "characterizing himself as Tarzan and (Hespe) as Jane." But when Hespe objected, she learned "she would have to run a gantlet of sexual harassment in the ... district in order to ensure male officers would 'have her back' on calls and not refer to her as a 'rat,'" according to the lawsuit.
After Breimon demanded that Hespe become his friend on Facebook, he used the site "to make lewd, sexual and vulgar suggestions," the suit said. When Hespe objected, Breimon told her no one would believe her and that his mother, whom he identified as a former high-ranking police official still with connections, would "get rid" of Hespe if she complained about him, according to the suit.
The suit alleged that Breimon repeatedly forced Hespe to engage in sex from November 2009 to November 2012 while both were on duty, often while parked in Breimon's squad car in secluded locations in Humboldt Park or inside the district police station.
Breimon often demanded nude photos from Hespe, becoming angry when she refused, and even suggested they have sex in front of her two young sons, Hespe told reporters.
When she tried to end the relationship, Breimon stalked her at her home, trailed her to her daughter's school and followed her movements at work using the GPS tracking device in her squad car, Hespe said.
"Anything that I would ever say, it would do no good to say anything because no one would believe my word over his," she told reporters. "So I felt just completely trapped."
(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune
Distributed by MCT Information Services