By Kristi Belcamino March 21, 2001, Wednesday Copyright 2001 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service Contra Costa Times March 21, 2001, Wednesday
(SAN JOSE, Calif.) - As a number of off-duty male police officers hooted and hollered, a woman stripped and gave "lap dances" at a party last week at the San Jose Police Officers Association building, outraging some women in the department.
Two women in the Police Department who attended the party said they were among several who were offended by the raucous display, which lasted 10 minutes before a captain stepped in and stopped it.
"It's not being taken very seriously and, as a female officer, I'm furious," said a veteran who witnessed the event and asked that her name not be used. "I'm really bothered by it. But the guys thought it was pretty cool. That was the most upsetting. If a single person does something, it's just that person; but when there was so much support for inappropriate behavior, it is very disheartening."
Officer Rubens Dalaison, a spokesman for the department, said the agency was looking into rumors that the woman was a paid performer, but he believed she came to the party as a guest.
"We're trying to find out what happened," said Dalaison, who added that no formal complaint had been filed in the incident.
But the women who saw the display said it was irrelevant whether the woman was a professional stripper or a guest.
"It's no less offensive whether she was paid or not," said a civilian employee of the department who attended the party. "It's the fact that it occurred and that they (male police officers) let it occur."
She also said filing a complaint would be useless.
"There is no point in filing a complaint,"she said. "You look bad and nothing is going to happen . . . anyway."
A third woman reportedly wrote a letter to the police chief criticizing the male officers' behavior.
Chief William M. Lansdowne did not return calls Monday.
The San Jose Police Department's force of 1,400 sworn officers includes nearly 180 women.
About 80 department employees, including 20 women, attended the March 14 party. The semiannual gathering, which includes hamburgers, chicken and free beer and wine, is not sponsored by the department, but is paid for by commanding officers, such as sergeants, lieutenants and captains.
The gathering is usually held every six months when department employees change their shift schedules, said Capt. Dave Delgado.
While officials are looking into the dancing episode, he said, they don't believe the woman was professional stripper hired for the party.
"We know for a fact there was a female out there dancing around and she probably got too provocative," he said.
Police have been told the woman had been drinking before she appeared at the party, he added. He said the department did not yet know who the woman was.
According to women who attended the party, the center of the room was set up as a makeshift ring for exhibition boxing matches between officers who compete in the state Police Olympics.
Between matches, as loud music played, a woman wearing a black leather jacket, short skirt and high heels, was led into the center of the rubber mats by a captain and then left alone, where she began to dance.
"She did a strip: seductively taking off the coat and the skirt," one woman said. "It wasn't like she just tore them off and was naked. The skirt she tossed off to the side. She went through this slow removal thing with the jacket."
After she shed everything except a bra and thong underwear, the woman gave at least three "lap dances" before another captain stopped the dancing, the women said.
"The man was sitting on a chair and she was straddling him and gyrating on his lap," said the veteran officer, describing one of the lap dances.
The captain who stopped the woman, Craig Buckhout, referred questions to Delgado.
"We are attempting to address the rumors (that she was a paid stripper) to see if there is the potential for a violation" of department policy, Delgado said. "It's something we're hearing and we have to take a look at it. It's really a personnel, administrative issue."
If there is a violation, the investigation will be turned over to internal affairs, he said.
Officers, even off-duty ones, are held to high standards and so anything that might appear inappropriate is looked into, he said.
During a daily briefing, commanding officers have asked rank-and-file officers and other employees who were offended by the stripping to come forward.
Officer Jim Tomaino, president of the police association, which allows the use of its building for the semi-annual event, said he had heard that a supervisor had stopped a woman who was dancing provocatively.
"Certainly, it isn't something we allow or encourage and that is why she got booted out," he said.
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