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When looking into a claim of sexual harassment within the police department, cops have no use for traditional crime-scene investigation tactics. Latex gloves and fingerprint kits won’t help to illuminate a he-said/she-said conundrum; background checks and interviews with potential witnesses, rather, serve as the nuts and bolts of the investigation.
But apparently not in the case of Metropolitan Police Department Officer Lawrence Bailey. Last October, one of Bailey’s female co-workers contacted the department’s Internal Affairs Division and accused him of sexual harassment. In January, Bailey says, he met with two agents who were investigating the case—Diana Rodriguez, from the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Debbie Burt, from the Office of Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance. As Bailey recalls, after some basic questions about his relationship with the accuser—Did you ever tell her she was pretty?—the investigators pulled out a tape measure and cut to the chase: If Bailey’s penis were erect, they wanted to know, precisely how high off the ground would it be?
Bailey, a 20-year veteran of the force, turned to his Fraternal Order of Police union representative, who was escorting him. “Does that sound right to you?” he asked.
It made a bit more sense when the agents explained the allegation, which a few weeks earlier had been laid out in a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to the police department. The accuser, a civilian employee of the department, said that Bailey once approached her cubicle and “while fully clothed…rubbed his erect penis against [her] arm,” according to the letter. The two worked together at the Fleet Management Division, which oversees the department’s squad cars and other vehicles.
Both Bailey and the accuser were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Internal investigators hoofed it to Fleet Management and did their routine interviews with the involved parties’ co-workers. But they didn’t stop there, according to the accuser, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The investigators had the woman sit in her chair and measured the distance from the floor to the spot on her arm where Bailey had allegedly rubbed his penis. If Bailey’s erectile height didn’t provide a match, the rationale went, they could presume he wasn’t their man.
So here was Bailey, three months later, being asked to hold the end of a tape measure to his penis. He balked. The union rep, who could not comment for this story, called his headquarters for advice, according to Bailey. The union gave him this counsel: So long as their requests were part of an internal investigation—and nothing that could result in criminal charges—Bailey should give them whatever weights and measures they desired. (A prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office had considered the case and declined to prosecute.)
Bailey, who insists on his innocence, says he took the end of the tape and allowed the agents to perform three measurements: One from the tip of his penis to the floor, another from the tip of a theoretical erection to the floor (“They added 2 extra inches,” he recalls), and the last from his waist to the floor. “It was humiliating,” says the 43-year-old, recounting the experience while sitting beside his wife, Deborah Bailey, at their home in Fort Washington, Md. “You would have thought I was a sex offender.”
Degrading, sure. But also exonerating. To Bailey’s relief, the numbers suggested that he was probably too short to be the culprit. Either he would have to have been standing on top of something—“like a bucket,” he suggests—or he would have to have had an enormous penis.
“I’d have to be this long,” he explains, holding his index fingers about 16 inches apart.
“He’d have to be Long Dong Silver,” adds his wife.
To Bailey’s embarrassment, he says, one of the investigators went so far as to point this out. “‘Oh hell no, you could not have done it,’” he heard Rodriguez say. “‘If you did you would be in the movies.’” Gregory I. Greene, chair of the union, recounted this tidbit in a letter to Chief Charles H. Ramsey. In the letter, Greene requested an investigation into the investigation.
Reached by telephone, Rodriguez and Burt declined to comment on the matter, citing the confidentiality of such investigations.
“It’s probably not a wise way to investigate something,” says Declan Leonard, an Arlington-based employment lawyer, who says he’s never come across such a method in his sexual-harassment cases. “I would never advise a company to do this.” Not only do the involved parties suffer the indignity of a partial re-creation of the event, says Leonard, but such an investigative technique is scientifically dubious at best. “What if the female employee was telling the truth,” he asks, “and the way they restaged it, they just did it wrong?”
Indeed, the accuser stands by her claim and aptly notes that the chair in which she was sitting during the alleged incident was adjustable. “My chair might not have been [at the same height] when they came to do measurements,” she says. “I don’t have a witness, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” And once such tenuous measurements have been performed, there’s no turning back for the investigator. “If the glove does not fit,” Leonard intones, “you must acquit.”
Bailey was formally cleared of the charges in early June. He says the snickering began the very day he was invited back on active duty. “‘Try to keep your penis in your pants,’” Bailey recalls one officer saying. He’s been doing mail runs between precincts and feels as though he’s the butt of a departmentwide joke. “Everyone knows about it,” he says. Through the union, he’s requested an inquiry into the tape-measure incident and also plans on filing a civil lawsuit against the department, making a counterclaim of sexual harassment.
The accuser says she’s considering leaving her job. “I don’t even get an apology, and he gets to play the victim,” she says. “The police department has let me down.”
She adds, “I think the whole thing was poorly handled.”CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Illustration by Bill Dunlap.