Fairview police chief draws investigation

BY RANDY ELLIS Modified: March 29, 2010 at 4:17 am •  Published: March 29, 2010
FAIRVIEW — Less than two months after reaching a $40,000 settlement in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against him, Fairview Police Chief Robert Banks is under investigation for alleged improper conduct in a class he was teaching for the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET).

"We’re at the very preliminary stages of doing an investigation,” said Steve Emmons, CLEET’s assistant director of operations. "It had something to do with the way he was treating somebody in the classroom. ... We obviously are concerned about this.”

"I don’t know anything about that,” Banks said, when asked about the new investigation.

Emmons declined to provide any details about the CLEET inquiry. He said Banks was an adjunct instructor and not part of the regular staff.

The federal lawsuit was filed in 2009 by former Fairview dispatcher Sherry Baker, who alleged she was the "target of and exposed to sexually explicit, crude and offensive language and actions of her supervisor, Robert Banks” and that the city was negligent for failing to properly investigate his professional history.

Citing terms of the settlement reached Feb. 10, Banks said he could not discuss any of the allegations leveled against him in Fairview or Enid.

"I’d love to be able to talk about all that. Unfortunately, I can’t,” Banks said.

Fairview City Manager Dale Sides said he stands behind his police chief.

"His future with the town is sound,” Sides said.

Being investigated and accused of sexual harassment are not new experiences for Banks, who previously had complaints registered against him while he was an officer with the Enid Police Department from 1997 through 2004.

Banks resigned from the Enid police force on Oct. 29, 2004 — 21 days after Enid Police Chief Rick West suspended him with pay in connection with an allegation he had picked up photos developed at Walmart that a clerk suspected might be pornographic, according to internal police documents obtained by The Oklahoman.

The clerk and a store supervisor told investigators a uniformed police officer, identified as Banks through the name on his badge, had come into the store and said he needed to pick up some photos as evidence. The clerk said the officer told her that an ex-prison inmate who happened to have the same first and last name as Banks was using his name and address "to turn in pictures of 11-year-old girls.”

Suspicions heightened when Banks didn’t submit any photos to the department’s evidence technician, investigators reported.

In the suspension letter that preceded Banks’ resignation, the Enid police chief called the allegations against him "quite serious” and said they questioned his "credibility and veracity as a police officer.”

Banks refused to comment about the incident, saying he was prohibited from doing so by the confidentiality agreement in his recently settled sexual harassment case.

His attorney, Margaret McMorrow-Love, said "people make allegations that frequently are not substantiated.