How often have we driven by a late night convenience store and seen a patrol car parked outside? Gas stations are popular with cops… they usually offer hot coffee, fast service and are open late. Service station owners and their employees usually like the presence of the police because it deters armed robberies. But for one female employee of a Thornton’s station in Louisville, the presence of LMPD officer Robert Neff was anything but welcome.
In the post we look at what victims of sexual abuse and harassment by police officers can do to keep bad situations from becoming worse. But first, the story of Officer Neff.
“Emily” was an employee of Thorntons. (“Emily” is a pseudonym for the victim’s real name.)
In March 2020, LMPD Officer Robert Neff was a frequent visitor at the Thornton’s station. He apparently began dating one of the clerk’s there. While hanging out – and on duty – Neff developed an interest in another clerk, Emily.
According to Emily, on March 10th or 11th, Neff asked her for a kiss. His advances were unwanted and she told him so. No didn’t mean no in Neff’s mind, however. According to her complaint, Neff asked to have sex with her. He then
“followed [her] into a back room at Thorntons and put his hand into her shirt and around her bra area and ran his hands up and down her body, including the inside of her legs in a sexually suggestive or inappropriate manner. These advances were unwanted and without Taylor’s consent.”
Media reports say he also tied the woman’s arms behind her back and then kissed her without consent.
Emily told another officer about the incident who then reported to higher ups in the department. Neff resigned from the force and was subsequently charged with official misconduct and sexual abuse.
After being found guilty, Neff was given a six month suspended sentence and ordered to serve two years on conditional release.
Neff’s criminal conviction didn’t end things for Emily. Last week she filed a federal civil rights case against Neff and the Louisville Metro Police Department. Her suit seeks monetary damages for the physical and emotional pain she suffered and continues to suffer.
What Can I Do When a Police Officer Sexually Abuses Me?
In most cases, simply telling a suitor – whether or not he or she is a cop – that you aren’t interested in their advances is enough. Had Neff asked for a kiss and simply went away when told “no,” there probably wouldn’t be a case. Obviously, that didn’t happen here.
When Neff got physical, Emily reported the abuse. While we would have rather she contacted an attorney immediately and reported the incident directly to internal affairs, it appears the officer she reported the incident to did right and reported the abuse to the appropriate authorities in the department.
Emily’s case against Neff will likely be decided by a jury unless there is a settlement. Getting paid by Neff could prove difficult, however. Unemployed sex offenders typically don’t have many assets or great employment prospects. The deep pockets in this case are the Louisville Metro City County government.
Police departments can be held responsible for the negligent supervision and negligent hiring of their officers. We know that Neff was reprimanded at least twice in the short two years he was with the department. Discovery will reveal whether there were citizen complaints, how those complaints were handled, what his background check revealed and whether the department should have fired him before Emily was abused. That he was on duty and in uniform at the time of the incidents certainly helps her case.
Media reports say that he was investigated for domestic battery a couple months earlier although no charges were filed. He was also enrolled in a domestic batterer’s program.
Sexual abuse cases against law enforcement officers are rare but they do happen. They also happen in our in our jails, prisons and youth detention facilities. Often victims are afraid to come forward because the offender’s status and power as an officer.
If you are approached by a police officer and sexually assaulted or molested, make sure to get help immediately. Ignoring the problem usually doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it often gets worse. Not sure who to contact? You can always consult with us. Even if you decide not seek money damages for your ordeal, we can help you properly report the misconduct.
To learn more, visit our sexual assault survivors’ information page. You need not be sexually assaulted in order to claim damages. Unwanted touching and kissing are also illegal and can entitle you to receive compensation for your emotional suffering and humiliation.
Ready to see if you have a case or simply want to talk to a lawyer about your situation? There is no obligation and no fee for consultation. If we do take your case, we do so on a contingency fee basis meaning you don’t pay unless we win. Our sexual abuse survivor lawyers and network can be reached online, by email at [hidden email] or by phone at 877.858.8018.
Cases considered nationwide. All inquiries are kept strictly confidential.
Brian and his handpicked team have a long history of pursuing sex offenders. Brian is a former police officer, prosecutor, and board member of the Family Violence Project. He is also a former volunteer with the Sexual Assault Crisis and Assault Center. Feel more comfortable speaking with a female lawyer? Just ask.