Personnel records released by the city of Ashevile reveal that police Sgt. Eric Lauffer, the target of a sexual harassment suit by former Officer Cherie Byrd, was demoted in June to a police officer’s rank. In defenses filed last week, the city admitted that Lauffer sent lewd text messages to Byrd, along with ones she regarded as racially offensive, though it denies any wrongdoing.
A 23-year APD veteran, Lauffer was the department’s officer of the year in 2008. He was also Byrd’s supervisor in the drug suppression unit. Byrd, an officer since 2002, alleges that Byrd sent her harassing text messages, such as “I must licky you” and “you have just been phone fucked,” as well as — after the 2008 presidential election — a message that “due to recent events: grape soda, red kool-aid, fried chicken, malt liquor, menthol cigarettes and gold teeth will be tax exempt.”
The records show that on June 4, Lauffer was demoted from a Sergeant to Police Officer Senior and had his salary reduced by $5,896 year to $53,068. Byrd, meanwhile, formally left the department on April 22 after several months on administrative leave.
While the city (and Lauffer’s personal defense) admit he sent her the text messages, they deny any wrongdoing, and deny Byrd’s allegations that they took no action after she brought the complaints forward or that female officers were treated differently in the APD.
— David Forbes, senior reporter