EAST CHICAGO — “Can I ask you something and you promise you won’t tell anyone?” a politically connected, veteran East Chicago police Officer Juda Parks allegedly asked a female recruit officer last year during field training, according to police internal memos obtained by The Times.
The female recruit agreed, unsure of what he would ask, documents state.
“You should send me some nudes,” acting Sgt. Parks allegedly replied, prompting the female officer to laugh uncomfortably, thinking he was joking.
“And that’s when I became really uncomfortable,” the female officer alleged in a complaint filed last month with a superior, East Chicago police Lt. Jose Rivera.
“He asked me again and I stood quiet. Then he said ‘You could say no,’ but I stood quiet. I was scared of what to answer, because he held the key to my future.”
Internal police documents obtained by The Times outline how Parks allegedly used his position of power to solicit the officer for naked photos of herself last year amid a series of unwanted sexually charged comments.
Parks, with nearly 20 years on the police force, is also a federally convicted ex-city councilman and a former East Chicago Central High School coaching assistant who currently is in charge of police security for the school.
Bradley Carter, spokesman for the Lake County prosecutor’s office, said no one in the East Chicago Police Department, as of Friday morning, had made the office aware of any allegations related to Juda Parks.
‘Risking my own career’
In at least one exchange, Parks allegedly told the female officer that he would be mayor of East Chicago one day.
The complaint alleges he brought up the idea again the following day.
“I told him I would if he became the Mayor of East Chicago. He had mentioned before how he wanted to run. I want to make him stop asking me without risking my own career who (sic) had barely even started. Shortly after that I went to another (field training officer),” the female officer wrote in her complaint.
Because the female officer is a potential victim of sexual harassment, The Times is not naming her.
Parks, 46, was still on the payroll as of Friday, according to interviews with a source familiar with the situation.
As of Friday, Parks had not been placed on administrative leave or faced any reprimand from East Chicago Police Chief Frank Smith despite the alleged female victim bringing forth the allegations on Dec. 24 and filing a formal complaint days later.
The supervising officers in the East Chicago Police Department who fielded the complaint appeared to have promptly reported the woman’s complaint to the police chief, according to the internal memos.
Smith, through department attorney Darnail Lyles, did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment. When a Times reporter first contacted the Police Department looking into allegations against Parks on Jan. 3, Lyles replied Jan. 4 that they had no comment on the matter.
Reached by phone Friday, Parks declined comment on the allegations.
“There’s no response to that,” Parks said.
Asked if he had an attorney, Parks replied, “There’s no need for an attorney.”
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Asked if he was aware of specific allegations against him, he responded, “Let me say it again. I have no idea and there’s no response to that.”
‘I like what I see. That’s all’
Documents state Parks first made unwanted sexual advancements while he was the complainant's field training officer during her first round of training from Jan. 8 to Feb. 2, 2018.
As her FTO, Parks asked the female officer about a bad day she was having, the complaint states, and as she went into greater detail, Parks allegedly asked her what she saw when she looked at herself “naked in the mirror?”
“I didn’t find it weird at first because I grew up around boys and I’ve always been in an all-male environment including the military,” the female officer wrote in a complaint filed. “I don’t usually find a lot of words offensive or inappropriate either.”
“I told him I see someone who is not enough and he said ‘Well, try to picture someone beautiful and sexy,'" the complaint continues.
After that incident, Parks allegedly commented on the woman’s appearance on several occasions, and when confronted about it, he would say: “I like what I see. That’s all,” the complaint further alleges.
During a second phase of training from April 2 to 13, the female officer said she continued to feel uncomfortable around Parks, prompting her to request another field training officer, records show.
Chief was forwarded complaints
A law enforcement source familiar with police internal affairs investigations told The Times allegations of police misconduct — brought forth by an employee or citizen — are typically channeled to a supervising officer or the police chief.
The police chief has the authority to decide if the allegation is unfounded or warrants further investigation internally, and any allegation can also be discussed with or forwarded to the prosecutor’s office for review and potential criminal charges.
According to one Dec. 24 memo to Smith from Sgt. Kevin Harretos, the female officer told Harretos she originally didn’t tell anyone because she feared “it would not do any good because … Parks was politically connected.”
The female officer told Harretos, according to documents, that she “does not want any other officer to have to go through this type of sexual advancements, obscene or degrading remarks.”
The officer “fears repercussions and possible losing her job as an East Chicago Officer for exposing the sexual harassment that FTO Parks did while being trained in the FTO program,” Harretos wrote in his report.
In an exchange with another superior, Rivera, the female officer also stated she was afraid because he’s “a possible candidate for mayor," documents show.
Parks’ history in city, Police Department
In 2017, Parks earned $47,558 — $36,423 as a master police officer; $10,891 as a school security officer at East Chicago Central High School; and $243 as a part-time investigator with the Lake County coroner’s office, according to Indiana Department of Local Government Finance's Gateway website, which provides information on public employee compensation.
The figures represent what he earned in 2017, the latest year for which salary data was available.
According to Times archives, Parks also served as an East Chicago Central assistant football coach in 2012. Parks also was appointed in November as a volunteer coach for Whiting’s high school boys’ basketball team, online records show.
In August 2016, Parks made headlines for resigning from the East Chicago City Council, rather than fight a state law that forbids individuals from holding multiple municipal jobs. With his resignation, Parks forfeited his third four-year term on the city’s nine-member legislative body where he had served since 2007.
Parks also was convicted on a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in 2013 for failing to file his taxes in 2008 and 2009.