Female deputies who were part of a human trafficking sting operation claim they became victims of sexual misconduct at the hands of their male commanding officers, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Monday against Harris County, Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen and two high-ranking members of his office.
Cordt Akers, a Houston attorney representing the women, said during a Monday news conference that the constable's office held "bachelor party" sting operations in which the female deputies were ordered to pose as prostitutes and the male deputies acted the part of buyers, in order to create an atmosphere in which actual sex workers would feel comfortable and more likely to engage in illegal actively. But according to the lawsuit, the women working for the constable's office who were "handpicked ... under the guise of legitimate police work were molested and traumatized by their intoxicated male commanding officers for their own sexual gratification."
The lawsuit, which names the county, Rosen, Assistant Chief Chris Gore and Lt. Shane Rigdon as defendants, claims the women were ridiculed, retaliated against and assigned to lesser roles in the department upon speaking out against the alleged misconduct.
Jacquelyn Aluotto, another female plaintiff who was employed by the constable's office as a human trafficking advocate, said her complaints about the alleged misconduct initially fell on deaf ears. The day after she provided testimony to the internal affairs division of the constable's office, her hours were reduced to zero, according to Akers.
"These brave women were ordered – ordered by their commanding officers - that your job in my unit, in an undercover capacity, is to dress in scandalous clothes, to allow me to kiss you, to allow me to fondle you, essentially to be molested by their commanding officer," Cordt said. "That is exactly what happened. And as these operations went on, the focus went more on that and less on the victims they were trying to save."
Rosen, a Democrat who was initially elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016 and 2020, said in a statement Monday that he has a "zero-tolerance stance against sexual assault and sexual harassment and would never allow a hostile work environment as alleged."
He also said his office conducted an internal investigation into the matter after a concern was raised by a third party "several months ago," and that leadership of the human trafficking unit was transferred to another supervisor at that time. Rosen said the internal investigation "found no violations of law or policy," and that the constable's office has not received a formal complaint from any of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Along with Aluotto, the plaintiffs are Liz Gomez, Felecia McKinney and Marissa Sanchez.
"Each employee interviewed was given the opportunity, in a safe environment, to express any concerns," Rosen said. "Their own interview statements contradict many of the allegations in the lawsuit."
Aluotto said the alleged misconduct during the human trafficking stings affected the women's ability to perform other duties related to their jobs with the constable's office. She also said the women have received threatening phone calls regarding the lawsuit and how it could impact their careers with Harris County and law enforcement in general.
"We want to send a message: This can never happen again. This will never happen again," Aluotto said. "You can call and you can threaten us and retaliate against us. I’ve already been told that my career in the county has been ruined. I’ve been blessed to work in this great county and have a career, and I hope that's not the case.
"But if it is, I’m always going to stand up for what’s right, and I’m always going to fight for people, and I’m always going to fight for people who are exploited. In for a time as this, we need to end corruption and complicitness by people in power. We will not be silenced. We will continue to advocate. We will continue to fight for our rights and others."