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Former police recruit files suit for sexual harassment

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

A 36-year-old former Clayton County Police recruit filed suit against Clayton County in federal court Friday, alleging sexual harassment.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, alleges that former Clayton County Police Sgt. Hank Derbyshire assaulted her Aug. 5, and claims that Police Chief Jeff Turner did not properly discipline the officer.

According to the suit, Derbyshire "grabbed her .. .and kissed her, told her to give him some tongue, and put his hand down the front of her pants without invitation or consent."

Derbyshire admitted to kissing and "necking" with the recruit and asking her to give him "her tongue," according to internal police records.

Following an internal investigation, Chief Jeff Turner demoted Derbyshire from sergeant to patrol officer, with approximately a $15,000 decrease in salary, Turner said recently.

Derbyshire retired April 17, according to the police department.

Friday, Turner declined to comment on the case, citing the current litigation.

Attorney Jack Hancock, who is representing the county in the case, said Friday that he had not yet been served with the suit, and, therefore, could not comment.

The former recruit has asked that her identity not be revealed. Her attorney, Terry-Dawn Thomas said her client is now employed with another police department in the metro-Atlanta area and does not want to jeopardize her current position.

"I think it's clear that she's qualified to be a police officer, because she's currently employed as a police officer," said Thomas.

According to the lawsuit, the day of the incident, Derbyshire had informed the recruit that she had passed the police-officer entrance examination for the Clayton County Police Department.

"She passed the test. She was qualified. The only reason she didn't show up the next day was because of him [Derbyshire]," Thomas said.

In a phone interview with her attorney present Friday, the plaintiff said she is not new to law enforcement. "I worked in law enforcement for seven years prior to coming to Atlanta," she said. "I was a [sheriff's] deputy for two years, and I worked for ... five years in the department of corrections," she said.

According to court records, the lawsuit seeks a jury trial in the case. Thomas would not specify what money damages are being sought. She said her client will seek to recover "any damages to which she would be entitled to under the law."

Thomas said, once the county is served with the lawsuit, county officials will have 20 days to respond.