PITTSBURG — A lawsuit filed Monday against the Pittsburg Police Department presents a troubling picture of alleged misconduct by a former member of the department.
The complaint, filed in Crawford County District Court, makes 12 specific allegations claiming civil rights violations by former officer Jesse Davis, of Carthage, Missouri, PPD and the City of Pittsburg.
Davis — who has been criminally charged with aggravated sexual battery and official misconduct in the incident — sexually assaulted a female arrestee.
According to the suit, “despite not having been fully certified, and only being employed with the Police Department for seven months, the Police Department allowed Davis to individually patrol the City and transport female detainees with little to no supervision.”
According to court papers, Davis and two other officers were called to the alleged victim’s house for a domestic dispute at about 12:30 a.m., August 26, 2017. Her landlord had apparently heard an argument between the victim and her fiance and called the police.
When the officers arrived, the complainant was unclothed and in her bathroom. While in the bathroom, she accidently called a friend through the “Facebook Messenger” app on her cell phone. The friend answered the call but heard no response, hearing police radios in the background, the friend allegedly stayed on the line, thinking something might be wrong, and continued listening throughout the incident.
The court document allege that the officers told the victim and her fiance that PPD policy was that someone would be arrested in any reported domestic disturbance.
According to the complaint, the reason officers gave for arresting the victim was scratches on the back of her fiance, which they both claimed were from a consensual sexual encounter earlier in the day.
The woman was then arrested and transported by Davis to the Crawford County Jail, a distance of some 16 miles.
During the transport, according to the documents, Davis allegedly showed the victim pictures of naked women as well as naked pictures of himself on his cell phone, commenting he liked women with small breasts.
Also allegedly tried to get the victim to allow him access to her phone “to see if she had pictures of herself.”
During the drive, he allegedly asked the victim to show him her breasts.
“... Handcuffed and terrified. A 20 year old who had never been arrested, she was locked in the back of a moving police vehicle with an armed, uniformed male police officer by himself in the front seat. Feeling coerced, with no other choice, she lifted her shirt,” documents say.
Davis then allegedly insisted on touching her breasts and told her that if she agreed he would alter his report to help her and talk to the prosecutor about dropping the charges.
According to the documents, fearing for her safety, she allowed him to do so. He then, allegedly, repeatedly told her he was going to pull over and have sex with her.
The lawsuit alleges that Davis did not activate any recording equipment before entering the vehicle, nor at any time during the transport.
However, the victim’s friend was on the Facebook Messenger call the entire time — about 47 minutes — the documents say.
During the call, four witnesses allegedly heard all or part of what was said in the vehicle and managed to record a portion of what happened, reporting it to police about the time Davis arrived at the jail.
Davis was later charged and fired from PPD.
Charges against the alleged victim were dismissed.
Officials with the City of Pittsburg have declined comment, saying in an official statement: “It would be improper to discuss the specifics of a pending lawsuit. However, we can assure our citizens that we take seriously any allegations or complaints against the city. Our top priority is and will remain the safety and well-being of the citizens we are charged to serve.”
— Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @PittEditor.