Mesa Police Officer Jeffrey Neese has been placed on home duty after two more women have come forward alleging sexual harassment, Mesa officials said on Tuesday.
Neese, a former sergeant who was found to have committed sexual misconduct against several female coworkers was reassigned to his home on Friday after the Mesa Police Department opened a new investigation into his behavior. He's also at the center of a lawsuit against the city for its handling of his harassment.
The day before, seven of Neese’s victims — six female police officers and one civilian — filed a notice of claim with the city of Mesa for failing to remove Neese from duty after his findings of guilt. The city instead opted to demote him from sergeant to a patrol officer, where he would continue to interact with the public.
The two additional women who came forward Friday morning, both civilians, alleged that Neese sexually harassed them in 2017 and 2018. Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista made the decision to place Neese on home duty after learning of the allegations.
While Mesa's human resources department investigates sexual misconduct allegations that come from city employees — and was responsible for conducting the investigations that resulted in the female officers' lawsuit against the city — the Mesa Police Department's internal affairs department investigates complaints from people outside of city government, and will review these allegations directly.
Sexual and workplace harassment won't be tolerated in Mesa, a city news release said on Tuesday in announcing Neese's home assignment, adding that all employees must take mandatory training on discrimination and harassment.
"With regards to sustained allegations, resulting disciplinary actions, and new complaints involving Officer Jeffrey Neese, the City took very seriously the accusations in all cases, began immediate investigations and acted consistent with its zero-tolerance policy," the release states. "In all instances, the highest priority was assuring that the complainants were able to work in a safe and harassment-free work environment. Neese was progressively reassigned and demoted to his current position and standing in the department pending the outcome of the current investigation."
Two previous investigations by the city of Mesa found that Neese had exhibited a repeated pattern of sexual harassment over several years, including sending unwarranted graphic texts and Facebook messages to subordinates that described masturbating, a pornographic drawing of three female officers, and fetishizing LGBTQ officers’ private relationships.
"Today’s decision by the City of Mesa to assign Jeffrey Neese to home duty comes far too late to remedy the hostile work environment that several officers have felt for the last nine months. We still don’t understand why he’s being paid while on home duty," said David Lunn, the attorney representing the Mesa police officers harassed by Neese in their claim.
Lund added that Neese found his harassment targets not just within the police department, but also while performing off-duty jobs in uniform.
The claimants against the city of Mesa are asking for $150,000 in damages each. But the female police officers have been quick to say this isn’t about money — it’s about ensuring public safety by making sure individuals who perpetuate sexual harassment are removed from positions where they wield power over others in the future.
Neese received the same sexual harassment training that all city employees receive, and received additional one-on-one training in 2018 after the first complainants came forward, according to the news release.
If the city of Mesa does not response to the notice of claim from the officers within 60 days, the claimants have a year from the date they found out about Neese's demotion to file a lawsuit.