EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Sexual harassment allegations led to the arrest of two El Paso police officers on charges of official oppression last week.
The El Paso Interim Police Chief Peter Pacillas said during a news conference on Aug. 31 that the accusers were two women officers who came forward in June.
Nonprofit news organization El Paso Matters published a report on June 4 titled “El Paso Police Department fails female officers, tolerates sexism, officers say.”
The CEO of El Paso Matters Bob Moore spoke with KTSM about the timeline of the women coming forward.
“First week of June is when we published our series that was based on these other women officers coming forward and then the following week, even though he wouldn’t talk to the public, Chief Pacillas put out an email to the staff saying that the department had a zero tolerance standpoint on sexual harassment,” Moore said.
The two officers who were arrested on charges of official oppression were Lt. John Surface and Sgt. Adan Chavez.
Court documents reveal numerous instances of Surface asking for sexual favors, nude photos, and one time showing up to one of the female police officer’s home. The allegations date back to 2016.
Moore was not surprised by the recent arrests and allegations following the report done by El Paso Matters Reporter Victoria Rossi.
“Victoria’s series documented that the issue of sexual harassment and other forms of very misogynistic behavior in the Police Department have been going on for a number of years, probably decades. And women police officers have been trying to come forward for a number of years,” Moore said.
During the press conference on Aug. 31, Pacillas said the Police Department takes these types of allegations seriously.
“The El Paso Police Department’s obligation to investigate crimes and protect victims, we take that seriously, whether it’s internally or externally. And as soon as we investigated this and probable cause was established, the affidavits were obtained. And you all got the information that we arrested two individuals for the official oppression,” Pacillas said.
Other criminal cases involving El Paso police officers include a 29-year-old El Paso police officer Irvin Mendez was arrested in 2020 and charged with invasive visual recording.
Also, in 2022, 28-year-old Officer Gilberto H. Silva was arrested and charged with attempted invasive visual recording, indecency with a child/exposure, breach of computer security, and unauthorized use or release of criminal information.