Former police chief took me to strip club for job interview, ex-officer says in lawsuit

Allegations of sexual misconduct continue to plague Miami Gardens

By Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Kalicia Battle, a former Lauderhill Police Department officer who worked for the Miami Gardens Police Department, filed a complaint against the City of Miami Gardens Thursday, claiming her hiring process included a visit to Tootsies, a strip club in Miami Gardens.

"Out of uniform and dressed in a suit, [Miami Gardens Police Department Chief Antonio Brooklen] told her to park her vehicle in the private garage adjacent to the strip club and walked her in through a private back entrance up to a private suite overlooking the main stage," the complaint says. 

Battle, who was 25 years old at the time, was hired as a Miami Gardens police officer Aug. 10, 2015 and said the sexual advances continued. She was openly gay and was later romantically involved with Officer Kimberly McDonald, who had sex with Brooklen and said he "was physically abusive and she was afraid of him," according to the complaint.

As their relationship got serious, McDonald allegedly promised to stop having sex with Brooklen, but Battle thinks she broke her promise.

The two got in a fight April 18, 2016, after Battle said she saw an unmarked Miami Gardens police car was parked outside McDonald's house. She believes Brooklen was inside McDonald's home when she stopped by and McDonald wouldn't let her inside. She claims that when she knocked on the door again, Opa-locka Police Department Officer Simon Lowery opened the door. 

Lowery was later reprimanded for calling out sick that day. McDonald walked out and their argument turned physical. Battle claims McDonald scratched her face. But that wasn't the worst of it. Battle, who was on duty during the altercation, claims that what happened next at the MGPD station was terrifying. 

The conflict ended when Battle was dispatched to a domestic violence incident at a local hotel. She was later summoned to talk to Sgt. Javier Romaguera at the station, where officers took her gun, Taser and personal cellphone, and Capt. Carole Thony, Sgt. Dwayne Piper, Sgt. Buddy Hunholz and Cmdr. Chuck Wagoner detained her, according to the complaint.   

Battle claims her request to be placed in an interrogation room, outfitted with audio and video equipment was refused. Instead, Battle said they used a handheld tape recorder and intermittently stopped recording to conduct interrogations off the record. 

Battle claims Hunholz and Wagoner threatened to destroy her if she ever mentioned anything about her relationship with Brooklen. They threatened to charge her with stalking, armed burglary and battery, coerced her to sign a written consent to search her cellphone and forced her to delete all of the text messages between her and McDonald, according to the complaint. 

When McDonald filed a restraining order, Battle decided to tell her father, John Battle, a former deputy with the Broward Sheriff's Office, what was happening. He allegedly met with Brooklen at a park to remind him that the text messages that she was forced to delete were all saved to her iCloud. McDonald dismissed the order. 

Battle said she agreed to meet with Brooklen May 18, 2016  in Hollywood behind some warehouses, and he allegedly told her City Manager Cameron Benson wanted her fired, and she needed to resign from the department or Benson would force "McDonald to reopen the fabricated criminal case against her and ruin her career." 

Battle resigned and applied for jobs at BSO and the Key Biscayne Police Department, but Brooklen allegedly "maliciously instructed his secretary not to respond to the inquiry or provide the letter needed to hire her," according to the complaint. After Battle hired an attorney, the complaint alleges the city began the process of bringing her back "to cover up what really occurred." 

There was a June 30, 2016 meeting with Benson, Brooklen, McDonald, former Assistant Chief, Cynthia Mechanic, and Melissa Negron, the head of human resources, to patch things up and about a week later Benson and Negron welcomed her back. She waited for a start date until Sept. 12, 2016 when she received a letter informing her of the city's decision not to employ her.

In her complaint, Battle alleged MGPD was a hostile work environment and the city needs to reinstate her and pay her damages. City Attorney Sonja Knighton-Dickens said Friday that the city has not responded to the complaint. 

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