DUNWOODY, Ga. — Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan recently completed an internal investigation that included close to 50 allegations of sexual harassment and unprofessional conduct within the department by senior officers.
The allegations involve one former officer, Roger Halstead, who claims he cannot secure employment because of the incidents, and current Dunwoody Police Officer Brian Bolden. Both allege bullying and harassment by Lt. Fidel Espinoza, who resigned from the department in May.
After interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, including current and former officers with the department, and other outside agencies, Grogan’s investigation determined enough evidence existed to sustain six of the charges of misconduct.
In his complaint, Halstead describes systematic harassment by a group of senior supervisors, including Espinoza, that led him to seek employment elsewhere in 2018 and 2019.
“Halstead suffered and continues to suffer for slanderous comments which have basically blackballed him from the law enforcement community for future employment,” the allegation claimed.
After enduring repeated harassment for his work performance, the claim charges, Halstead consulted the department’s head of human resources. From that point on, Halstead alleged the harassment got worse.
Halstead argued that he was encouraged by one senior officer to apply for a position in the Brookhaven Police Department, and that his past record would not be an issue. Halstead charged that the advice was a setup to get him to leave Dunwoody. Further, he claims senior Dunwoody officers spread the word that he was unprofessional, and he has since had difficulty finding employment.
Bolden claims his issues with Espinoza began in 2013 when he beat out one of Espinoza’s friends for a job on the force. He said Espinoza told him there was something he didn’t trust in him and that he would be “watching him like a hawk.”
A year later, Bolden said, Espinoza began a pattern of sexual harassment against him and even suggested that part-time work assignments depended on his willingness to participate in certain sexual activities. Bolden said he suspected Espinoza was trying to “break him down,” and that the sexual advances were “continuous, continuous, continuous.”
Bolden also said that Espinoza falsely accused him of stealing candy bars left inside a police vehicle.
During his interview with Grogan’s investigation, Espinoza disputed Halstead’s charges of harassment, claiming all exchanges of a sexual nature were consensual and it was little more than kidding around. He admitted to exchanging photos and texts with Halstead, but that there had never been any coercion.
He said he had never made any comments of a sexual nature to Bolden, and he denied he ever threatening to “watch him like a hawk.”
Grogan’s investigation drew from current and former officers from the department.
One former officer, Chris Valente, said his knowledge of the matter suggested that Halstead had been a willing participant in the sexual discussions with Espinoza.
The investigation also included an interview with Brookhaven Deputy Chief Brandon Gurley, who reported that Espinoza had called him to recommend Halstead for a position.
However, Officer Bryan Castellano, who is in the process of seeking employment at Brookhaven, told investigators that he had been the target of unwanted sexual harassment from Espinoza, although he never filed a formal complaint. He said he never confronted Espinoza about his objections.
In his findings, Grogan found evidence to sustain six of the charges dealing with inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature and misconduct on the part of supervisors, primarily Espinoza. But, he said, there was no evidence of coercion or threats, and that the first claims of sexual harassment by Halstead came in March 2020, almost a year after he left the force.