Five Utah women come forward alleging sexual harassment, rape by former Provo Police Chief

PROVO, Utah – Five women have filed a lawsuit against the City of Provo, Utah, and former Provo Chief of Police John King. They allege in their lawsuit that the city had full knowledge of Chief John King’s history of complaints of sexual harassment and abuse, years before Chief King reportedly raped a woman in the police department in Jan. 2017.

King was let go three months later, in March 2017.

The first accounts of alleged sexual harassment by King started in July 2014.

One plaintiff said King started treating her inappropriately in April of that year. Complaint documents stated, “Chief King made a comment about her breasts, referring to them as ‘puppies’.”

Further alleged harassment finally lead up to that plaintiff quitting her job at the dispatch center in July 2014. The lawsuit states in her exit interview, the plaintiff wanted to file a formal complaint.

Another woman stated in March of 2015, she assisted Chief King with a copier machine and when she finished, “he reached his arm around her and firmly groped her right breast and pulled her closer to him three times as he said ‘good job.’”

That same woman reported in the lawsuit that, “His advances reached a point where she would hide in her office or the bathroom if she heard Chief King coming toward her office.”

The lawsuit states the plaintiffs felt helpless – because their complaints to the city were not stopping King’s behavior.

Another woman said King sexually assaulted her four or five times.

The lawsuit states: “It got to the point where, upon the arrival of Chief King at the dispatch center, the dispatchers would immediately ‘stand up’ or ‘cover up’ to try to avoid Chief King’s leering.”

After the first dispatcher quit in July 2014, Mayor John Curtis called a supervisor meeting. According to the lawsuit:

“… the Mayor told all the supervisors that he did not want to hear any more complaints about Chief King. Mayor Curtis also told supervisors that Chief King would remain for as long as Curtis was mayor. Additionally, and upon information and belief, there was at least one closed-door meeting held in late 2015 or early 2016 by the Provo City Council regarding Chief King and his continued misconduct, including sexual misconduct. Upon information and belief, none of these meetings resulted in the discipline or censure of Chief King. The result of this unfettered power was the rape of another police department victim…. In January of 2017, Chief King engaged in nonconsensual sexual contact with her and, despite her protests to Chief King that she did not want to engage in sexual relations, Chief King persisted and raped her…”

That alleged rape victim was so afraid, the lawsuit states, to report the rape to human resources, that she waited until King was on vacation to come forward.

The lawsuit alleges that victim called Mayor Curtis directly and told him over the phone what King did to her.

“Even then, however, Mayor Curtis tried to sweep Chief King’s misconduct under the rug, telling the department that Chief King had taken administrative leave to care for his sick mother…”

Plaintiffs released a statement through their attorney regarding their lawsuit:

“Provo City failed when it hired John King to be its Chief of Police. Then Provo City failed to protect and believe these brave women when they reported their claims about King. In order to move forward, Provo City needs to start by believing these women. Provo City needs to believe that stewardship and accountability require more than simply blaming a previous administration and leaving this issue to the lawyers. The city is responsible no matter who was previously or currently in charge.”
– Parsons Behle & Latimer Attorneys at Law

Congressman John Curtis’ statement regarding the lawsuit as well:

“The behavior of former Provo Chief of Police, John King, is appalling. His reported actions against the people that serve and protect our communities with honor are despicable and I strongly condemn them. The brave women who have come forward have my full support.

Despite what’s being inaccurately reported, I would never shield or protect a predator or abuser. I have a history of doing the exact opposite and I’m confident as the legal process unfolds, the details will show I acted responsibly given the information I had at the time.

Like most situations, in hindsight, perhaps there could have been things done better. At the time, with all the facts that I had, I believe I did the best I could and followed the protocols established by the city of Provo acting on the advice of the city attorney and human resources.

As a mayor and now a member of Congress I am fully committed to doing my best to be transparent and accessible.”

Provo City released this statement in response:

“Provo City has received a copy of the complaint that was filed this morning alleging sexual misconduct by former Police Chief John King. The City has retained Heather S. White, head of the Governmental Law Group at Snow Christensen & Martineau to represent the City in this action. Our legal team and others here are carefully reviewing the allegations, and the internal investigation into the claims is proceeding, as well. While the investigation is pending, it is important that Provo City refrain from commenting on the particulars of the allegations. Once the investigation is completed and the answer to the complaint filed, the City may be able to comment further. Provo City does not and will not condone sexual harassment, nor does it condone intimidation or retaliation against employees for reporting misconduct or pursuing rights under the law. Mayor Michelle Kaufusi is continuing her efforts to spread that word far and wide throughout City departments. It is a top priority for her to ensure that every employee here has a safe and comfortable work environment.”

To read the full lawsuit, click here.