MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A group of Mesa Police officers intends to sue the City of Mesa and the Mesa Police Department for allowing a superior to keep his job, even after they came forward with claims of sexual harassment.
The group is announcing a notice of claim tomorrow, alleging the city failed to properly investigate and discipline Sgt. Jeffrey Neese. A notice of claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.
Two of the women spoke exclusively with Arizona’s Family describing disturbing text messages, fears of retaliation and concerns about their futures with the Mesa Police Department.
“He should not be with the police department anymore,” says Ofc. Amanda Cook, who provided transcripts and screenshots of text conversations she had with Sgt. Neese beginning on March 31, 2018.
“There were extremely disturbing emojis depicting masturbation,” says Cook.
Screenshots provided by Cook show Neese thanked her for a hug on March 31, 2018, and told her it gave him “something more to think about in private moments.”
In a text dated April 4, 2018, Neese said he only likes to sleep “after an orgasm.”
Cook says the sexual text messages persisted for nearly a week, but at the time she was a rookie and feared complaining about the messages would lead to retaliation or hold her back from promotions and special assignments.
“I felt like nobody would believe me. Nobody would even care,” says Cook. “How did I stop this conversation from happening without jeopardizing the rest of my career?”
Cook says the messages stopped when she stopped responding. Then she says in March 2019, she learned Neese had been removed from his SWAT assignment because other women had complained about receiving sexual messages.
Mesa Police Det. Ashley Elliff says she was one of those women.
“I thought I could push those feelings of embarrassment aside,” says Elliff, who claims she received texts from Neese beginning in August 2017. She says she made a complaint a year later when she learned a friend and fellow officer had received sexual messages from Neese.
Elliff described one of the text exchanges.
“He said ‘I was at home entertaining myself,’” says Elliff. “I knew he was eluding to masturbation when he said that. And it was confirmed when he told me, ‘You were the last person I saw. So, thank you for that image.’”
In a Human Resources report dated May 23, 2019, Neese referred to a previous investigation. He claimed he had “no memory” of the texts he’s accused of sending Cook and suggested they were fake texts created with an app.
Human Resources sustained the allegation against Neese after using a forensics firm to verify the texts were sent from his phone number and “had not been fabricated or altered.” The report does not include recommendations for disciplinary action.
Cook says Neese was demoted last week to an officer. The Mesa Police Department would not confirm that, saying the department does not comment on officer discipline when the officer still has an opportunity to appeal. The department does not comment on pending litigation.
The City of Mesa also said it does not comment on pending litigation.
Cook says Neese may have been stripped of authority, but as a patrol officer, he continues to pose a risk to women everywhere.
“This officer, now officer, is available and being out there in the public to potentially do this to any other females,” says Cook.
Arizona’s Family reached Jeffrey Neese on the phone, but he declined to comment on the allegations against him.