By Atlanta News First staff and Zac Summers
ELLENWOOD, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – The Henry County Police Department is at the center of a lawsuit alleging repeated sexual harassment from a former captain toward the department’s female staff members.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Officer Christina Gatchel, claims then-captain Norman “Woody” Fowler reportedly engaged in inappropriate and sexual behavior toward her and others.
Gatchel, who joined the Henry County Police Department in 2018 and served as a special victim’s unit and domestic violence investigator, alleges Fowler repeatedly made sexual comments toward her, humiliated her in front of other officers, and at times touched her inappropriately.
“In one instance, which occurred in July 2021, Officer Gatchel was in the parking lot break area of the Department’s South Precinct, in the company of two police sergeants. Officer Gatchel walked away from the group to avoid Defendant Fowler. As she walked away, Officer Gatchel heard Defendant Fowler she ‘was good to look at’” the complaint reads.
A photograph taken at Fowler’s retirement party shows what appears to be the captain touching Gatchel’s backside. Gatchel said Fowler allegedly bragged to other officers about touching her following the incident, according to the complaint.
At least eight other women with the department reported similar interactions with Fowler during his time as captain, according to Gatchel’s legal team. The civil complaint argues a pattern of “severe and pervasive sexual harassment within the Henry County Police Department,” citing failure from department leaders to take action against Fowler’s “repeated and unwanted advances on female subordinates.”
“While nine other women were subject to Defendant Fowler’s advances, Defendant Fowler was only formally reprimanded for one incident,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit also names Henry County Chief of Police Mark Amerman and Human Resources Director Harold Cooper, alleging Amerman and Cooper failed to take action when Gatchel contacted them about Fowler.
Atlanta News First has reached out to the Henry County Police Department for a statement and are waiting to hear back.