TUPELO • A new lawsuit against the Tupelo Police Department by a former employee alleges a “culture of illicit sexual relationships” and harassment within the department.
In the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen, Lara Mansell says she was sexually harassed or propositioned by several superiors, pressured into an affair with a married officer, assaulted by the man’s wife and intimidated into silence.
In her pending lawsuit, Mansell said shortly after she was hired as an administrative assistant at the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center in April 2016, her supervisor, Lt. Brian Brown, started making unwanted sexual advances. At one point, she claims he forcibly kissed and groped her and then later told her, “I don’t know if you know this about me or not, but I always get what I want.”
Believing her employment was in jeopardy, the lawsuit says she “eventually gave in to his advances and began a romantic relationship with her boss.” The affair lasted several months and the suit claims that the pair often engaged in sexual acts while on duty and even at TPD property.
Mansell claims that Chamila Brown, Brian Brown’s wife and a TPD officer herself at the time, showed up at her residence one night in October 2016 banging on doors and windows with a police baton. When Mansell opened the door, Chamila Brown forced her way inside and assaulted Mansell.
The lawsuit says Mansell was left “bruised and battered” but does not detail the injuries or if she sought medical attention.
After the incident, Mansell alleges that the now-retired Capt. Tim Clouse contacted her about the incident and told her “to keep her mouth shut” and “assured her she would be fine if she would just keep quiet.”
She said that after the assault, Brian Brown continued to ask for sexual favors and she “gave in to his demands out of fear for her job.”
Eventually Mansell, whose brother is a Tupelo police lieutenant, left the department and took another job within the city of Tupelo. When the matter resurfaced about two years later, both Brian Brown and Chamila Brown were forced to resign.
The suit alleges that Mansell’s experiences are part of a larger pattern.
“This was a common scenario and one that had been overlooked for years,” the suit claims. “Lara was further aware that women were simply treated differently from men. Straight females within the Tupelo Police Department were ‘fair game’ for harassment, intimidation and general disrespect. Lara had been constantly subjected to sexual harassment by various employees of the police department.”
The lawsuit names TPD, Chamila Brown and 10 unnamed figures as defendants for claims of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, retaliation and assault and battery. Brian Brown was not named as a defendant.
Similar accounts of affairs and sexual harassment surfaced during two recent discrimination suits filed by former officers, with both those cases settling. Depositions and testimony in those cases brought to light allegations of sexual harassment directed by a male workplace supervisors toward a female subordinate and a tangle of extramarital affairs within the department.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages including back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages as well as costs and attorney fees.