Note: This story has been updated to reflect a statement made by AFD chief David Downey.
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police Department officers spent Wednesday afternoon investigating something strange at Fire Station #16 on Juan Tabo near Montgomery.
Albuquerque Fire paramedic Adele Parker says she showed up to work and found a motion-activated hunting camera in her bunk room. Parker says there was a piece of fruit stapled and hung on the door, made to look like a female sex organ.
Parker says it’s the latest incident of sexual harassment she’s had to endure during her 13 years with the department.
She originally joined at age 32 on a dare.
“My brother was a firefighter and he told me I was too old and too out of shape to do it,” Parker said.
But as early as when she was in training, she claims she was called sexually explicit names by her AFD classmates.
“My rookie year I had my underwear stolen,” Parker said.
In a lawsuit filed against the city, Parker claims colleagues grabbed her crotch, buttocks and chest as the years went on.
“Early on I made a decision with my husband that I really didn’t want to do anything about it because I was afraid to kind of just be labelled as like a rat,” Parker said. “You just kind of learned as a female that you just kind of put up with it you just kind of tolerate it.”
The incidents kept piling up. When she was working at Fire Station #17, she claims she woke up to a nap to find a man standing over her with his penis exposed. According to a lawsuit, fellow firefighters frequently watched “Girls Gone Wild” tapes and looked at porn in the firehouse, often in front of her. On another occasion, a sex toy was left in her bunk.
A turning point for Parker came when she discovered something unusual at Fire Station #13 while she and others were on the roof looking for fires in the Bosque.
“I noticed that looking through the skylight that you could see the whole bathroom and I recognized that that was the bathroom that I’d used,” Parker said.
She claims a fellow firefighter confirmed other firefighters had used that skylight to spy on her while she showered. The whole incident made her feel violated.
Parker submitted a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed a lawsuit against the city in 2013. The case is set to go to trial in April.
“This goes well beyond boys being boys,” said Michael Cadigan, Parker’s attorney. “It’s not just harassment, it goes to assault.”
Wednesday’s incident made Cadigan irate.
“Whether it’s a joke or a threat it’s grossly inappropriate,” Cadigan said.
Parker is now asking to be put on paid leave until the case is resolved. Wednesday night it was unclear whether that would happen as a result of Parker’s claims.
All AFD spokesperson Melissa Romero would say about what happened at Fire Station #16 Wednesday is that it involved a “personnel issue.”
Nobody from the city could be reached Wednesday night to respond to Parker’s claims, however the city typically does not comment on pending litigation.
AFD chief David Downey released the following statement on Thursday:
AFD takes all allegations of harassment very seriously. When allegations are made, an independent investigation is conducted to fully review the validity of the claim and administrative handling. The claims made my Ms. Parker’s attorney will be fully investigated as part of her lawsuit against the department.