Police officer in center of sexual harassment case still employed by APD

Asheville Police Department Officer Eric Lauffer, whose explicit text messages to his then-subordinate, Officer Cherie Byrd, were at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit that the city settled this week for $52,100, is still employed by the department.

Photo by Jonathan Welch

Personnel records obtained by Xpress show that Lauffer, first hired by the APD in 1987, was demoted from sergeant to police officer senior last June. He’s now assigned to the department’s patrol division. Lauffer makes $53,068 a year, down from $58,964 in his previous position. Lauffer was one of the APD’s officers of the year in 2008.

Byrd’s lawsuit alleged that Lauffer, then Byrd’s direct superior in the Drug Suppression Unit, sent explicit and racially offensive text messages to her, beginning in summer 2008 and continuing into 2009, including “I must licky you” and “I am just a man. Never satisfied always wanting more.” Byrd’s lawsuit also claimed that she had brought the matter to the attention of the APD’s leadership as well as the city’s human resources department and City Manager, but that they ignored her complaints.

Last June, responses to Byrd’s lawsuit from the city of Asheville and Lauffer’s attorney admitted he had sent the text messages, but denied any wrongdoing and asserted that the APD and city staff had properly investigated and responded to her complaints.

The same personnel records show that Byrd, hired by the APD in 2002, made a salary of $41,325 a year at the time of her resignation last April, following a period of administrative leave.

On April 12, after City Council members went into closed session to consider the case, City Attorney Bob Oast announced that the city was settling the lawsuit, paying Byrd $48,000 and reimbursing her for $4,100 in mediation fees.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter


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16 thoughts on “Police officer in center of sexual harassment case still employed by APD

  1. YanceyCo

    If Eric Lauffer was employed by private industry he would have been fired. There is no place for sexual harassment in the workplace.

  2. cwaster

    I have no confidence in a public servant that behaves in that manner. Zero. He should have lost his job. In a private company, he undoubtedly would have. Sexual harassment is not only wrong, it’s a crime in my opinion. Fire him, please.

  3. Isle of Man

    Man, the APD sure is knocking ’em outta the park these past few weeks!

  4. LOKEL

    He looks like a smug bastard in the photo …

    any of us would have been fired no questions asked had we done the same thing.

    Somebody needs to get “a hold” of the APD once and for all …. Hogan certainly isn’t qualified to remain on the job.

  5. ashevillain7

    Just out of curiosity: assuming the photo was taken when he was sergeant (3 stripes), how many stripes does a “police officer senior” have? Is it still no stripes like a regular officer or is there some level of hierarchy between officer and sergeant. I ask because I have never heard “police officer senior” before.

  6. James

    You mean our tax dollars paid this woman off instead of the officer the committed the harassment? That is idiotic and offensive.

  7. What’s idiotic is that instead of ACTING on this when they were informed, both the City Manager and City Attorney ignored the complaints. Their inertia led to this.

  8. Carrie

    Let me get this straight… not only do we have to pay for his criminal behavior, we now have to continue paying his salary? And to trust him to protect us?
    NO NO Thank you. He should be fired & sued in civil court to pay back the city. Anything less is pure BS!!

  9. normaldudeinfll

    Remember there are two sides to every story…just because the “victim” was paid does not admit wrongdoing. The “victim” may not be so innocent after all, even though that that some of the messages were inappropriate. We’ll never know the facts as I am sure that neither party can discuss it further due to the settlement. Being in senior managment of a business organization, the “victim” is almost never totally innocent. It is cheaper to pay the plaintiff to go away than to drag it though the court. It was a good business move for APD and do not assume that they were merely “protecting their own”. From my experience, this goes on in the private sector all the time and you never hear mention in the media. Just because this is a cop and news about dirty cops sells is the only reason this made the news.

  10. brebro

    Yes, as long as he continues to be in a position of authority, he may very well continue to demand that, under penalty of law, certain citizens must licky him.

  11. bill smith

    [iRemember there are two sides to every story…just because the “victim” was paid does not admit wrongdoing. [/i]

    Oh, PLEASE do tell what the cop’s ‘side of the story’ could possibly be. Was he forced by aliens to type those text messages?

  12. @ Normaldudeinfil

    Lauffer’s blatantly inappropriate and racially insensitive texts reveal just the tip of the iceberg. If he’d openly display such lack of respect, there’s no telling what else went on under his tenure as the head of the Drug Suppression unit.

    What you appear to be belligerently missing is the pressure it puts on a subordinate who needs their job to have to constantly deal with such abuse of power. The travesty here is that when Boyd went through channels to deal with this, she was ignored by the City Manager and Attorney….it was their job to set matters straight…they did nothing. There’s a lack of leadership at the top of Asheville’s government that allows this crap to fester….and continue to cost citizens in more ways than mere money.


  13. cwaster

    @Normaldudeinfil –
    “The “victim” may not be so innocent after all, even though that that some of the messages were inappropriate…Just because this is a cop and news about dirty cops sells is the only reason this made the news. ”

    True. However it remains that Lauffer did something wrong. That’s proven. Yes news about dirty cops sells- because dirty cops are scary to us “normal” citizens. We don’t want dirty cops. We want people that (in my opinion) will actually protect and serve the community, not themselves.

  14. Regina lauffer

    Dont believe everything you read!!! Eric lauffer is a very good man. He has given his time and energy to a police department he truly believes in and respects. This story has been stretched and much has been lies!!!! The people that knows this man, loves and respects him very much. It takes ignorance to believe everything you hear! If you got to hear the whole story, the real story, you would know that this man has been treated unfairly.

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