Franklin Hartley and Thomas Merenda, both Lauderhill, Florida police officers, were arrested recently after they allegedly conducted a traffic stop on two women, had them drive to a secluded location, and requested sexual favors, news sources report. Hartley, 33, and Merenda, 34, were booked into police custody on charges of simple battery and unlawful compensation. They have both since bonded out of jail on unspecified amounts. The press did not specify an attorney for either of the defendants.
According to reports, Hartley and Merenda work as officers for the Lauderhill Police Department, though it is not clear for how long. Their future with the station now hangs in the balance. “I and the men and women of the Lauderhill Police Department are truly disappointed with the nature of the allegations made against these two officers and if they are proven to be true, the consequences should be severe,” a Lauderhill Police Department spokesperson reportedly said in a statement on Friday. It is not clear whether the pair has been officially suspended or released from their duties at the department.
The incident began at around 4 a.m. on May 24, 2012 when Hartley pulled over a car at a Taco Bell located on West Commercial Boulevard in Tamarac. There were two women in the car who reports say had just left the Vegas Cabaret in Lauderhill and were under the influence of alcohol. Hartley spoke with the two women and told them they could possibly be arrested before asking them to follow him to a secluded area behind a building on West Commercial Boulevard, sources indicate. The women complied and followed Hartley, sources say.
Based on reports, Hartley contacted Merenda and told him to meet him at the secluded location as well. Merenda, Hartley, and the two women met up at the specified area, and once there, Hartley engaged in an unspecified sexual act with the passenger, sources allege. Hartley and Merenda both reportedly inappropriately touched the victims as well. It is not clear whether these actions were consensual.
Merenda eventually spoke with the driver and allegedly asked her to punch him in the groin, sources indicate. The driver “refused to do what the officer requested, but he reassured her that this was okay and this turned him on,” reports say. Hartley allegedly also consoled the driver, who eventually complied and stuck Merenda between the legs, reports say. before sending them on their way, sources say. The pair was not arrested.
Sometime after that incident, Hartley contacted one of the victims via his cellphone several times, sources indicate. At some point, he allegedly sent the victim an image of himself. The nature of the image was unclear in reports. It appears as though the victims eventually decided to report the incident to authorities.
During a later investigation, detectives inspected Hartley and Merenda’s squad car GPS and went over their cell phone records, reports indicate. The detectives reportedly found evidence supporting the two victims’ claims; Hartley and Merenda were subsequently arrested. It was not immediately clear at press time whether they officially commented on the allegations.