El Monte police officer accused of sexual harassment had prior solicitation arrest
An El Monte police sergeant named in a sexual harassment suit by a colleague who alleged he repeatedly commented on her body and said women made "natural waitresses and food servers" had a previous conviction for soliciting a prostitute, authorities said today.
Albert Tromp, 52, was arrested in 1997 by Bell Gardens police for misdemeanor solicitation of a prostitute. He eventually pleaded no contest and was sentenced to five days in jail and one year's summary probation, according to Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
The details emerged as El Monte Police Chief Tom Armstrong said Tromp received unspecified discipline last week related to a year-long investigation by Officer Mechelle Marin, who said she was sexually harassed by Tromp and other colleagues.
"This [the prostitution conviction] appears to be further evidence that Sgt. Tromp had a longstanding propensity to treat women as sexual objects," said Solomon E. Gresen, the attorney representing Marin. "One would think that the El Monte Police Department would have long ago recognized the need to rein in Sgt. Tromp’s unlawful behavior."
The suit alleges Marin was repeatedly subjected to improper comments about her clothing and body by Tromp, who suggested Marin could trade time off for sexual favors. Tromp, the suit claims, would look directly at Marin’s chest while speaking to her and opine “at various times that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ and that women ‘are natural waitresses and food servers.' "
Armstrong said the department took "immediate and affirmative action" to investigate Marin's allegations a year ago, when they were brought to the attention of top brass. As for the 1997 solicitation arrest, Armstrong said he could not conclude it predisposed Tromp or anyone else to harassing behavior.
"Sometimes we engage in behavior that effects us for a lifetime," Armstrong said. "In the final analysis, I don't know what the individual was thinking at the time [of his 1997 arrest]."
Neither Tromp nor the city attorney could immediately be reached for comment.
The new details come at a difficult time for the city of El Monte. City Manager James Mussenden, 59, was among 30 people arrested last week in a prostitution sting in Pomona, and he announced over the weekend that he was resigning after three years at his post.
Armstrong said it was "a sad thing," but that the cases "are two anomalies."
"There's a lot of great people that work here and you have two incidents of this nature," Armstrong said. "El Monte is not that way."
-- Andrew Blankstein
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