NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A NOPD sergeant has been demoted, accused of sexually harassing female employees.
According to police records, Sgt. Rhett Charles made sexually explicit comments to the women, and there was even an audio recording of one of those conversations.
According to his personnel file, Charles asked a female employee, "How fat is your p***y?" On another occasion he allegedly said to a different female employee, "If I wasn't your supervisor, I'll like to break your back," referencing a sex act. He also allegedly told a female employee what he would do if he "ever was to have sex" with her.
The NOPD said it found enough evidence at a disciplinary hearing Monday to demote Charles from sergeant to officer. But the vice president of police watchdog the Metropolitan Crime Commission says in his opinion, Charles should have been fired.
"In the case of Sgt. Charles, the penalty that was handed out was really a slap on the wrist and the problem with that is the New Orleans Police Department did not have a sexual harassment policy in place. They are using catch-all charges to bring against him, and some of them have only a penalty of three days," said MCC Vice President Anthony Radosti.
Aside from his demotion, Charles was also suspended - but only for one day.
FOX 8 spoke with his attorney, Donovan Livaccarri, about the allegations.
"Officer Charles was saddened and surprised to hear about these allegations from the get go," Livaccarri said. "He's done the best that he can to accept responsibility for whatever role he may have played in some of these conversations. There were some allegations that we only learned of a couple of days ago."
Reporter: "What would you say to some who are saying that he should have been terminated instead of just demoted?"
Livaccarri: "I think that the department looked at the entirety of the case in consideration of his 28 years of notable service to the department and apparently they didn't feel that it reached that level."
In a statement, NOPD Chief Michael Harrison said:
"The NOPD takes charges of sexual harassment very seriously, and we have updated and revised our disciplinary policies to reflect that. The penalty assessed in this instance, demoting Rhett Charles from his position as a Sergeant, is the most serious option available to us short of dismissal."
NOPD Communications Director Beau Tidwell also issued the following statement:
"At a disciplinary hearing held this past Monday, three charges made against Rhett Charles were sustained--- including two neglect of duty charges for workplace harassment. As a penalty, he was demoted from Sergeant to police officer. He will have no supervisory responsibilities going forward.
The penalty was assessed based on the parameters of our department's disciplinary matrix. Per the Independent Police Monitor, this was the appropriate decision issued based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
The NOPD disciplinary policy in regard to sexual harassment was updated May 21st of this year. The policy in effect since that time explicitly lists sexual harassment as a separate and specific 'Level D' violation. Prior to the revision, sexual harassment could have been grouped more generally under "discrimination" (which is also a level D violation), or fallen under "neglect of duty" (which is Level B, potentially carrying a lower penalty than a D level). The change was made in the interest of clarity, and to eliminate any potential subjectivity in the penalty response."
Charles' attorney said he plans to appeal the disciplinary action.