Police Officer Robert Hite is now on paid administrative leave after a public corruption investigation The officer faces seven counts of battery, two counts of extortion, and three counts of obstruction of justice. A public corruption unit with the State Attorney’s office initiated the arrest of Hite. He is a 17-year veteran of the Palm Springs police force. An internal affairs investigation will determine his fate.
This is a sexual harassment lawsuit. Essentially, Hite is accused of grabbing female cadets and police officers in private areas, engaging in non-consensual touching, and unzipping a female officer’s pants. Most of the complaints came from female cadets who were being trained by Hite. In cases where female officers threatened to report Hite, he threatened to ruin their careers or otherwise get back at them.
The investigation turned up enough evidence, most of which was provided by female officers, to charge Hite with seven counts of sexual battery, although there are likely more incidents that were never reported. Further, Hite is accused of using his position of power to influence, intimidate, harass, or retaliate against someone.
The department announced that they will not be commenting on the case. However, there are a number of female officers who have valid sexual harassment complaints against the department, so the department has serious liability issues that they don’t want to tip their hand about. Questions will be asked concerning how an officer with Hite’s track record for sexual harassment was allowed to abuse women in the department for 17 years without anyone noticing, or putting a stop to the conduct. Further, the department placed Hite in a position of power over trainees which gave him the ability to leverage them into silence. So the department is quite guilty in that regard, but that’s a matter for civil court.
Hite was also arrested twice for domestic battery, but those incidents never resulted in charges. There are four women who have stepped forward with complaints against Hite and more who allege that he was merely abusive during training exercises.
Any intentional unwanted contact with a person’s genital area is sexual battery. No one can simply assume that they can touch a woman in her private area regardless of whether or not they are a police officer. How this particular officer was able to stalk and abuse female employees of the department will become the subject of extensive litigation.
The prosecution of Hite will focus on witness testimony generated by the victims. While witness testimony is notoriously unpredictable, having four police officers take the stand against a fifth bodes ill for Hite’s defense. He will likely simply deny the charges, claim the contact was consensual, or claim that there is a conspiracy of women who are “out to get him” because he was tough on them in training.
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