NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Keven Underwood says his wife, Laila, was a rising star in the Newport News Police Department. That was until Laila filed a sexual harassment complaint against her supervising sergeant in November 2014.
“There comes a time when you have to put your foot, take it out of the sand, put it on the concrete and fights back,” Underwood told NewsChannel 3.
In an exclusive NewsChannel 3 investigation, we were able to gather internal police documents, included Laila Underwood’s sexual harassment complaint.
In the complaint, she accuses her supervising sergeant of stalking her at her home, calling her personal cell phone for non-work related issues and touching her inappropriately.
“Being a former Newport News police officer I can tell you, the females and the minorities, they fight an uphill battle,” Keven told NewsChannel 3 in an exclusive interview earlier this month. “It’s a ‘good ole boy’ system, and it’s hard to break.”
Laila was unable to speak to our station because, according to her husband, she could be fired for giving an unapproved interview to the media.
After Laila made the sexual harassment complaint, Keven says things began to unravel.
According to additional internal documents, Laila began to receive poor performance reviews within the department and was denied numerous training opportunities.
“Not only did she receive great reviews prior to the complaint, but she had never been reprimanded or anything,” said Keven, referencing his wife’s ‘clean’ record prior to the sexual harassment complaint.
Other documents obtained by NewsChannel 3 show, after the complaint, Laila’s K9 position as a school resource officer was eliminated, and in March 2015, she was accused of drinking on the job.
By October 2015, the drinking allegations were eventually ruled ‘unsubstantiated’, according to a hand-delivered letter given to Laila, but her husband says the damage to his wife’s reputation had already been done.
Additionally, Keven says his wife never received a letter regarding the findings of the sexual assault complaint Laila filed.
NewsChannel 3 reached out to the Newport News Police Department, but they did not comment, citing a personnel matter.
Now, Keven Underwood is demanding city council investigate the discrimination claims.
“There is a systematic discrimination going on in our police department,” Underwood told city council Tuesday night. “It starts with the Chief sitting here in the back of the room.”
Newport News Police Chief Richard Myers was present for the city council meeting, but did not comment.
“They are using the internal affairs division to systematically target members of the police department that they do not care for,” Underwood said in his statement to council.
While he does not know if his public appearance will help his wife, he does hope it encourages other police officers who have possibly been targeted to come forward with their case.