Nobody harassed anybody, and besides, you couldn’t even tell they were strippers. That’s the word from Metro police officials this week in response to a Kentucky woman’s allegation that cops harassed a group of adult performers at police headquarters in December.
Stephanie Capps, owner of a chain of strip clubs including Stephanie’s Cabaret on Lafayette Street, testified in court last month that police officers and department personnel made lewd, inappropriate remarks to dancers who had come in for legally required fingerprinting and background checks. Specifically, Capps alleged, a group of cops lined up against a wall to ogle the women as they entered the secured area of the downtown compound. They made comments like, “Well look what we have here,” and “Nashville’s finest walking right through,” Capps said, noting that the women were “herded through like cattle, like a show.”
Next, she said, when the group of performers was taken upstairs to be fingerprinted, a male police employee asked if they should “fingerprint those,” referring to a woman’s breasts. Capps testified that the “laughing and joking and kidding around” became so ridiculous and time-consuming that two female police employees relieved two male employees of their post.
Nonsense, say police officials, who conducted a brief inquiry after the allegations came to light. In a memo to Deputy Chief Steve Anderson, Lt. Dorise Polk wrote that two men were indeed working when Capps was fingerprinted Dec. 5: one was a veteran employee and the other, a trainee under his supervision. Antoine Buchanan, the senior of the two men, says he didn’t say anything inappropriate to the dancers and doesn’t recall hearing anything out of line that day. In a written statement, Craig D. Reese, the trainee who is now at the police academy, echoes Buchanan’s comments. “During my time at the I.D. section I acted professional at all times with respect and courtesy to all. This accusation is completely preposterous.”
In her memo, Polk concurred. “Based on the professional performance and demeanor of the two men that were working that day, I don’t feel that either of them would say anything inappropriate to any of the customers that come to the Identification Section to be printed,” she wrote.
As for Capps’ allegation that two women relieved Buchanan and Reese of their post, identification department employees say that if females did relieve the male employees of their duties, it would have been only because it was lunchtime. According to department records, the woman who fingerprinted Capps was Valena Watson, a longtime police employee. Capps testified that Watson or another woman said, “This is ridiculous. You men get out. Let the ladies take over because otherwise we’ll be here all day.” Watson denies saying anything to that effect.
Police officials say things were particularly busy in the identification section after a new law went into effect requiring all employees of sexually oriented businesses to be fingerprinted and get criminal background checks. Because business was booming, personnel in the identification department say they can’t remember all the specifics. They say no inappropriate comments were made and everything else—like laughter and horsing around—has a perfectly reasonable explanation, like lunchtime noise coming from the break room. At least, that’s their side of the story.
Capps, through her attorney, Bob Lynch, refused to comment for this article. “My client testified under oath about her experience,” Lynch tells the Scene. “She stands by her testimony.” Unless Capps takes her allegations to the Office of Professional Accountability, though, it seems like the in-house, honor-system review will close the matter for now. It appears no one interviewed first-floor police workers, where the line of ogling men allegedly stood, and police spokesman Don Aaron tells the Scene he doubts videotapes were kept from indoor surveillance cameras. If dancers felt violated, they’ll have to make a bigger fuss about it. Otherwise, the case is closed.