Police Officer Arrested After Years of Sexual Harassment Uncovered

The Village of Palm Springs patch
The Village of Palm Springs

Palm Springs Police Officer Arrested

(FL) – A Palm Springs police officer has been arrested on multiple charges. His reign of terror spanned years before it was uncovered. Field Training Officer (FTO) Robert Hite was arrested after turning himself in on Monday. Hite is accused of  harassment, verbal abuse, threats of retaliation, and inappropriate physical contact. Five women, four of which are law enforcement officers, and one civilian worker, have made allegations against him. It’s unknown if the investigators are speaking to others to determine if there are more victims.

Among the many allegations, The Palm Beach Post has the following,

One officer told investigators that Hite continually grabbed her breast as they drove in a marked patrol car while he was assigned to train her.

Internal Affairs Investigation

Two female police officers were having a discussion when the subject turned to the abuses by Hite. They discovered they had similar experiences of sexual harassment and decided to go to their union. This started an Internal Affairs investigation. Investigators uncovered police sexual misconduct, belittling behavior toward females, and verbal abuse so severe that it was mental abuse.

Problems in Palm Springs Police Department

Law enforcement has a huge problem with misogyny. They may be trying to bring women onto the force, but they are not doing enough to address misogyny. Male officers still look at female officers as there to meet a quota and not as real law enforcement officers. That attitude of disdain is encouraged, rather than discouraged, in training.

You can see that none of the women at the Palm Springs Police Department felt comfortable in reporting the abuse. They either felt they would not be taken seriously or that they would be labeled a snitch. The two women who made the initial report had so little trust in the agency that they went to their union instead. That is a failure on the part of the Palm Springs Police Department. It’s a failure that allowed Officer Hite to take advantage of their fears.

The Palm Beach Post

Each time Hite was accused of doing something inappropriate or his advances were refused, he told the women they were going to fight with him or that he would threaten to ruin their careers, investigators said.

At least two of the women stated that Hite “chest bumped” them. That would be a deliberate action to get in their face, to intimidate, and to show a willingness to assault. One female officer heard rumors about Hite and spoke to him to make sure there would not be problems. The article doesn’t state what his response was, but goes on with the following,

She alleged within days of working with him, he started making inappropriate comments, claimed he had an affair with a dispatcher and was going to do the same with her.

At one point, she alleges, he touched her, and when she protested, he “chest-bumped” her several times into a wall, allegedly telling her there was nothing she could do about it.

There were rumors. How could administration not have known? Police officers are notorious gossipers. But there weren’t just rumors.

Police Officer Insinuates He’s Untouchable

Hite told one female “he had several complaints and even arrests against him in the department but nothing was ever done…” It turns out that “Hite was arrested twice for domestic battery in 2008 but the charges were never filed.”

Domestic battery is a red flag. Law enforcement agencies know that a woman may call the police in fear while an incident is occurring, but may back out of pressing charges out of fear or financial concerns. They know that the failure of charges to be filed does not mean nothing happened. The Palm Springs Police Department won’t release complaints against Hite so we are unable to see what else they knew. But it seems obvious that they should have known he was a problem. The signs were all there. They chose to look the other way.

Position as Field Training Officer Aided Officers Ability to Abuse

When a person is hired as a patrol police officer they are partnered with a Field Training Officer (FTO). That FTO basically shows them the ropes of how the agency functions. The FTO also reports on how well the officer does. That ability to report on a new officer’s progress gives the FTO a lot of power over the new person. An individual has already gone through about a year of schooling before being hired to become a police officer. They’ve already invested significant time and money to have a career in law enforcement. They are very susceptible to threats to end their career before it even begins.

The Field Training Officer position gave Hite power over vulnerable new hires. And to add insult to injury, he got paid more to perform the functions of a Field Training Officer.

Criminal Charges Filed

52-year old Robert Hite is a 17-year veteran with the Palm Springs Police Department.

The Palm Beach Post

Hite is charged with six counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, two counts of battery, two counts of threats or extortion and three counts of criminal influence under color of law – meaning Hite is accused of using his position as a law enforcement officer to influence, intimidate, harass, or retaliate against someone.

Hite was given a $37,000 bail bond which he posted immediately. The judge ordered that Hite’s wife would secure his guns. Is this the same wife who called the police on him twice? The wife he beats? How is she supposed to keep him away from his guns? This was a very poor decision on the part of the judge.

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