DES MOINES, Iowa — A Des Moines police officer has resigned after he was investigated for allegedly peeping into a women’s locker room at the police gym last week, according to police officials.
The Des Moines Register reports Tarry Pote, a Des Moines police officer since 2002, resigned Thursday afternoon after a police inquiry into a complaint by a dispatcher who said she saw someone looking through a locker-room window while a female officer was changing inside, police officials said.
“We are disappointed and upset and disturbed by this,” Des Moines Police Chief Doug Harvey told The Des Moines Register Thursday. “It’s not what we anticipate and for sure not what we’re willing to tolerate.”
Pote told The Des Moines Register Thursday that he had no immediate comment.
On Jan. 14, just before 7 p.m., a dispatcher was walking to her parked vehicle outside the police station on East First Street, according to a police report. As she passed the police gym, she noticed a man in gray gym shorts and a T-shirt jog around to the front of the building to another side.
She said the man looked around and squatted over a window looking into the women’s locker room. Inside, a female officer was changing, getting ready for her workout, according to the report.
The dispatcher said she went quickly to her car and honked the horn to startle him. The man jumped up and ran behind the gym, according to the report. The dispatcher drove her car toward him to try to identify him but couldn’t see him.
Two officers went to investigate and found Pote with his girlfriend and four other officers inside the gym. One of the officers standing with Pote in the gym told the investigators that she was the only woman in the locker room who had been changing at the time, officials said.
“I asked if they saw anything suspicious. They all stated no,” the officer wrote in his report.
Des Moines detectives started a criminal investigation into the incident the next day, and Pote was placed on paid administrative leave, Harvey said. Interviews with Pote and the other witnesses led police to believe that Pote was the culprit, but there wasn’t enough proof to file criminal charges for what likely would have been a trespassing or invasion-of-privacy charge, Harvey said.
“We couldn’t prove specifically what he saw, which does not meet the criteria of invasion of privacy,” said Capt. Todd Dykstra.
An administrative review by the department’s Office of Professional Standards never began because Pote resigned. The female officer may have the option of pursuing a civil lawsuit against Pote, authorities said.
The gym windows have since been “peep-proofed,” said Sgt. Jason Halifax, a spokesman for the department.
In May 2014, Pote and another police sergeant were suspended for a month without pay after investigators determined he made unwanted advances and another officer behaved unprofessionally during a relationship with the same woman.
Pote had been a defensive driving instructor at the academy. He had no prior discipline from the department at that time.
Investigators couldn’t prove Pote had made an inappropriate comment to the female police recruit during the one day of training the two had together, but then-Chief Judy Bradshaw gave Pote a 25-day suspension for violating a broad section of the department’s “standard of conduct.”
Pote was not allowed to teach at the academy for at least five years, officials had said. But he and the other officer continued to work while under investigation, though they were moved from their previous assignments to overnight patrol.
Bradshaw called it an “isolated incident,” stressing that none of the improper conduct occurred at the law enforcement academy.
Pote was moved into overnight patrol.
Pote has received over $9,000 in pay bumps since the first incident, leaving the department with a total salary grade of $78,821.
“We have a very strong harassment policy. We train people on what’s expected of them. And the police department expects more of them than the policy,” Harvey said. “When they do not adhere to the policies and our standard of conduct, then we take corrective action.”