TPD lieutenant demoted over racy photos speaks exclusively with - Tucson News Now

TPD lieutenant demoted over racy photos speaks exclusively with TNN

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A Tucson Police officer demoted after a racy photo scandal is finally telling her side of the story. Sgt. Diana Lopez spoke out exclusively to Tucson News Now on Thursday.

Lopez lost her rank and was demoted after top officials at the Tucson Police Department received anonymous letters claiming she had sent racy photos and videos to another officer with whom she was in a relationship.

The anonymous letters described the videos as 'girls gone wild'. The writer also stated Lopez should be disciplined as she was “a rising star in the department,” “untouchable”, and “with unfettered access to the chief's office.”

Lopez described her reaction when she was called in to be questioned about the photos and videos.

“My reaction was shocked, very vindictive. Sad that somebody would go to that length in my opinion to hinder my career,” said Lopez.

She said the photo scandal had consumed her life for the last 21 months, and described her first day back at work after she was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant.

“The first day I was reporting as a sergeant Downtown South, I remember driving to work. It was horrible. I was embarrassed, I didn't know anyone in my new squad. I thought here I have to sell myself again. I can tell you from day one, they all said, we have your back, and they did," said Lopez.

Lopez said she decided to speak out to thank all the officers who have supported her through this scandal. In fact, many of them showed up at hearings on their own time, as a show of support.

We asked Lopez if she had any regrets about sending the racy photos to her boyfriend, an officer who did not work in her direct chain of command.

Police documents stated the officer shared the photos with his colleagues. In fact, according to court documents, the officer himself admitted what he did was immature. Lopez said she held no grudges against him, they had talked about it and she still considered him a friend.

She opened up about the content of the photos and videos, which no one claims to have possession of anymore. Apart from several officers, sergeants and a police Captain who said they saw them, they say they do not have them anymore.

None of the attorneys, the internal affairs staff, civil service commissioners, even Lopez's own attorney have seen these videos and photos. We asked Lopez to describe the content and nature of the items.

“There were several videos. They were private, sexual in nature from one cell phone to another, not posted anywhere. There was a provocative photo in a uniform but not a state of nudity, no video, none of that. It was done in my home, not on duty, in my private cell phone.”

We asked Lopez if she had any regrets. She said she did, but she still considered this a legally protected activity.

“Clearly I think differently now because you never know on the other end what can happen. You don't know if it can be lost. I still think we have a Constitution in place and it covers you taking photos of yourself and sharing them,” said Lopez.

She added that the state of Arizona had recently passed a law that made it a felony crime to share photos involving nudity without the person's permission.

Lopez said the last 21 months had taken a toll on her.

“I've suffered a financial loss with being demoted with pay, as well as attorney fees.”

Lopez said the taxpayers have already spent more than $60,000 in fighting this case, and the longer it drags on, the higher those costs will go.

“What you do in your private life is your private life. I've been a good officer, I've been a good sergeant, I've been a good lieutenant. I don't get complaints at work basically because I treat people well. I expect the same of all my officers. What I've done in my private life has not diminished my respect at work. Maybe with a few of them, clearly those who demoted me, but not those who worked for me,” said Lopez.

She said she looked forward to heading back to work as a Lieutenant on Sunday.

"It's bittersweet. I'm glad to be back where I belong. I feel like I've lost 21 months of development in the department because of this," said Lopez.

Her attorney Michael Piccarreta called the case an “invasion of privacy.”

Lopez said she still had a gender discrimination claim pending at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office in Phoenix.

We reached out to the Tucson Police Department for a comment. Officials said they had no comment at this time. We also reached out to an attorney representing the Civil Rights Commission. As of air time, we have not heard back fro them either.

In court documents the city argued that Lopez violated a code that required her to keep her private life “unsullied.” City officials also said they demoted her because a person in her rank should have known better.

Lopez said there is nothing in the code of conduct that stated what she did violated policy. Her attorney, Piccarreta laughed at the term “unsullied”, calling it vague.

“I have never seen a law enforcement officer, lawyer, a judge, or even a saint that lives an unsullied life,” said Piccarreta in an earlier interview.

Lopez said she plans to head to work in the east side district as a lieutenant, starting Sunday.

We will update our story if we hear back from the Tucson Police Department or the Civil Service Commission.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved. 

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