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Tape Was Meant to Reveal Sexism in Ranks : Investigation: 'I want this type of behavior stopped,' says man who gave TV show video of 1991 sheriff's training facility incident. Some female deputies thought it was 'cute,' but internal affairs is on the case.

September 24, 1993|ERIC YOUNG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COSTA MESA — A Costa Mesa man whose videotape of a stripper at an Orange County sheriff's training facility prompted an internal affairs investigation said Thursday that he offered the tape to a television reporter in an effort to expose what he sees as sexist behavior among some law enforcement officers.

"I want the story out there," said Gary Herron, 41. "I want this type of behavior stopped."

Herron, who teaches self-defense classes to many women and some police officers at a studio on Grace Lane, said he turned over the approximately 15-minute tape to the tabloid news program "A Current Affair" about two months ago.

He said he grew increasingly concerned about what the 2-year-old videotape showed after hearing stories from women in his classes who said they had been abused and raped, and also about the Irvine Police Department investigation into an alleged sex club formed by officers there. That investigation found no evidence such a club existed.

The videotape, which formed the basis of an "A Current Affair" segment Thursday night, shows an unidentified woman who performed at an April 15, 1991, birthday celebration attended by training officers and recruits at a Sheriff's Department training facility in Garden Grove. The video shows the woman dancing and touching one training officer, then straddling him as he sits in a chair, while several dozen trainees and training officials look on and cheer.

"This is not what every police officer is like," Herron said. "I think there are more good than bad (officers). But there are a few out there who, I don't want to say are out of control, but they think it's OK" to treat women in a degrading or sexist fashion, he said.

Sheriff's officials announced Wednesday they began an internal investigation into the performance last week when an "A Current Affair" reporter showed them the tape, which they said was the first time they knew of the performance.

The academy's top officer, who approved of the stripper's performance, said he expects to face disciplinary action as a result of the department investigation.

Although department officials have criticized the performance, some department employees said they do not think it was harmful.

One female deputy, who was not at the party, said, "I don't think that is the prevalent view of women at the academy. I don't think that's the attitude toward women. . . . I think it was a funny thing that was interpreted 2 1/2 years late."

One woman who was present at the performance and is a graduate of the academy, said, "My thoughts were it was kind of cute, kind of funny. . . . I don't feel that it was degrading to women as a whole or women police officers."

Herron said a police officer who was at the stripper's performance shot the videotape. The officer, whom he declined to identify, told Herron about the tape shortly afterward, he said.

Herron said he offered the tape to several television stations, but he claims he was not taken seriously, and was afraid that they would want him to reveal his identity in interviews. The tape sat in a safe for about two years after that, he said.

Since talking to "A Current Affair," Herron said, he has had windows broken out of his car and been shot at. He said he suspects that the incidents are in retaliation for turning over the video.

He also said that he has been approached by Sheriff's Department officials who demanded the video "or heads would roll." He declined to name the officials.

Herron said the alleged threats prompted him to begin relocating his self-defense studio. He said "A Current Affair" paid him $4,000 to help relocate in Orange County after he gave them the videotape.

"This ($4,000) is nothing compared to what it's costing me," he said. "I'm never going to have another police officer in my school, and I used to have plenty. . . . I've received innumerable threatening phone calls. And I'm having to relocate my business.

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