Columbus Police officer files lawsuit, claims fellow officers disseminated nude photos that they obtained illegally

COLUMBUS (WCMH)–A Columbus Police Department officer filed a suit in federal court alleging that her coworkers disseminated nude photos of her that they had procured through an illegal search.

Officer Tricia J. Zimmerman filed the suit last December.

Zimmerman alleges that she was in a relationship with a fellow officer who was filing for divorce from his wife. The wife allegedly came to Zimmerman’s home while she was with her boyfriend, and stole the man’s cell phone. She then took it to police and falsely reported that they engaged in sexual intercourse while on duty, according to federal documents.

The police’s Internal Affairs Bureau investigated the matter, “including conducting a warrantless search” of the boyfriend’s personal cell phone. Zimmerman said she had sent nude photos to her boyfriend while she was not on duty.

The Internal Affairs officers allegedly “printed out copies of the photos of Zimmerman, laid the pictures out on a conference room table and showed the pictures to other officers uninvolved in the investigation.” When Zimmerman arrived for her interview with Internal Affairs a sergeant allegedly told her “’I saw your pictures. They printed them out and spread them all over the conference room table. We said we were going to send them in to magazines.’ – or words that that effect.”

“It was within their [the police department’s] purvey to investigate, for instance, an allegation that there was misconduct on the job, but there was no need to print the pictures, disseminate information about it, gawk at her, make comments to her, or mistreat her. All of that is entirely unacceptable,” said John Camillus, Zimmerman’s attorney.

Zimmerman, who worked with the vice unit, alleges she was punished by denying her requests to do undercover assignments and assignments with other units. She says in the lawsuit that she was required to work excessive amounts of guard duty.

“She has been wronged and she has been wronged in a way that impacts her career, impacts her future earnings capacity and she rights to seek regress in the courts for that, but we also want them to stop the continuing mistreatment of her,” Camillus said.

“She’s very strong, so she’s doing well, relatively speaking, for somebody who has endured what she’s endured.”

The lawsuit alleges that Chief of Police Kim Jacobs and several other high-ranking officers knew what Internal Affairs officers were doing and “took no action…other than to direct them to start the investigation over without use of any information obtained from the cell phone.”

The Columbus Division of Police public information officer has deferred comment to the city’s attorney office, which has not responded to messages sent by NBC4 requesting a public statement on this case. Attorneys representing the city and Columbus police officers and staff have not responded to NBC4 requests for a statement.

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