Cop made sexual advances and threats to female trainees, investigators say

The rookie cop had heard “many rumors” about her training officer’s methods, so she told him to keep it professional. But it quickly became uncomfortable, she told public corruption investigators in South Florida.

First there were inappropriate comments — with the officer referring to her as “his girl,” calling her butt fat, suggesting they would take off their uniforms and fight, and saying that he was going to have sex with her.

And then the 6-foot-2, 220-pound officer got physical with her, touching her lower back, chest bumping her, and trying to caress and rub her shoulders. She asked him to stop, and he threatened to “end her career.”

These are just some of the allegations lodged against Robert Hite, a Village of Palm Springs police officer charged June 28 with 11 felonies and two misdemeanors. If convicted, he could face up to 77 years behind bars.

The alleged crimes cover a period between August 2019 and January of this year, involving four victims — three officers and one department employee, all women. There are uncharged allegations concerning a fourth officer.

Records show department officials began an internal affairs review of Hite, 52, earlier this year. That led to the 17-year veteran being placed on paid leave March 29. In late April, Hite’s supervisors contacted the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office to begin a criminal investigation.

The department will not comment about the allegations at this time, a spokesman said.

Hite is represented by Kevin Anderson, a lawyer who specializes in police misconduct matters, and Orlando Gonzalez, a lawyer who used to be a West Palm Beach cop. Neither attorney could be reached for comment Monday despite messages left with their offices.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel is not identifying Hite’s accusers because of the sexual nature of the alleged offenses. Details of the accusations are spelled out in an arrest report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

One officer said she was receiving training from Hite when he touched the top of her breast on several occasions, despite requests for him to stop. She gave a sworn statement that Hite once touched her butt without permission and another time “placed his hands on her inner thighs.”

“Once again Officer pushed away and told him to stop which once again agitated him and [he] would say things like he was going to fight her and he could ruin her career by going to the Chief,” sheriff’s Sgt. Jerry Lamm wrote.

The attacks continued as several times Hite approached while she was sitting and put his groin on her shoulder, according to the report. Another time he allegedly yanked her hair, causing some of it to fall out while her head slammed back on the headrest of a patrol car.

The officer said she was too afraid to report Hite to supervisors throughout her ordeal. That finally changed last October after she spoke with another woman on the force who said she had similar problems with Hite.

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Eventually, five women came forward to speak with investigators about Hite’s actions. All say they will testify before a jury about what happened to them.

A detective who has been with the department for over seven years said she has heard from numerous trainees that Hite “would humiliate and degrade all of them.” She reported that was her experience as well, and it made her question whether she wanted to be a cop.

Prosecutors have announced six counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, two counts of threats or extortion, three harassment-type counts called “criminal influence under color of law,” and two misdemeanor battery counts.

Hite’s arraignment on the charges is scheduled for July 29 before Circuit Judge Rosemarie Scher.

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