Ex-Miami Gardens Police Chief Groped, Sexually Harassed One of His Cops, Lawsuit Says

Former Miami Gardens Police Chief Antonio Brooklen
Former Miami Gardens Police Chief Antonio Brooklen City of Miami Gardens
Antonio Brooklen was sworn in as police chief of Miami Gardens — one of the poorest and most crime-plagued areas of Miami-Dade County — in November 2015. The previous chief had been arrested in a prostitution sting.

Less than a year later, Brooklen resigned. He says he left to care for his sick mother, but in reality, he was hit with a sexual-harassment complaint the day before he stepped down. The complainant, former Miami Gardens Police Officer Kalicia Battle, reportedly sent Brooklen a letter threatening to sue him.

Yesterday Battle finally made good on her threats and filed an employment-discrimination complaint in federal court. Battle had been dating another Miami Gardens officer, Kimberly McDonald. But after Brooklen became chief, he also began dating McDonald — and began fixating on Battle against her will. (Brooklen has repeatedly denied committing any acts of sexual impropriety.)

"From the very first day Chief Brooklen laid eyes on 25-year-old Kalicia Battle, she became the object of his unsolicited affection," the suit says, "at least one of the objects, as she would soon find out."

The allegations against Brooklen have been previously detailed, notably by Local 10 investigative reporter (and former New Times columnist) Bob Norman, who obtained text messages Brooklen sent stating he "really wanted to feel" Battle. But the lawsuit includes new, even more upsetting allegations. Battle contends that when she was applying to become a Gardens officer, Brooklen asked to meet her outside the office for an "official meeting" to discuss her application — except he insisted the pair meet at the Miami Gardens strip club Tootsie's Cabaret, where he allegedly kissed her on the cheek without her consent.

Other allegations detail more appalling behavior: After she was hired, Battle says, Brooklen asked for another meeting to discuss her status as an officer-in-training. He wound up forcing the new hire into his city-issued tan Ford Expedition — where, the suit says, he groped her "legs and chest, in the very parking lot of the police station he was tasked with commanding."

According to the suit, Battle escaped by saying she had to go home to meet her father. After the incident, she says, the chief regularly called and asked if she was avoiding him. He would also "regularly threaten to get her in trouble and 'joke' that she didn’t want to go back to working as a security guard."

In perhaps the most frightening allegation, Battle says Brooklen later called her and another rookie officer to his office for meetings. After the first, male officer spoke with Brooklen alone and left, the chief allegedly called Battle into the room, shut the door behind them, and shoved his hand down her pants.

"Ms. Battle was frozen in shock," the suit reads. "Chief Brooklen then told her to sit down and asked if 'she was excited.' Not knowing what to say in such a situation with such a powerful authority figure, Ms. Battle forced herself to say that she was."

After the incident, the suit says, Battle ignored Brooklen's calls and avoided him at work. The chief retaliated by forcing her to work nothing but night shifts. 

In the meantime, both Battle and Brooklen were dating McDonald. As the relationship between the two women progressed, the suit claims, McDonald told Battle that the chief was physically abusive and that "she was afraid of him."

On April 18, 2016, Battle and McDonald had a brief domestic scuffle, which the Miami Herald reported at the time. The suit claims Battle showed up at McDonald's home to ask whether the chief was inside and if McDonald felt safe. Battle claims McDonald refused to answer. Battle says she grabbed McDonald's arm to prevent her from going back into the home, and McDonald then scratched her face.

Apparently, MGPD rapidly found out about the incident, because the suit says Battle's "gun, tazer [sic], and personal cell phone were immediately removed from her, and she was taken up to one of the sergeant’s offices" when she returned to the police station. Battle says she was "unlawfully detained" for more than four hours.

"Officer Battle was told that she was facing charges of stalking, armed burglary, and battery," the suit reads. "Officer Battle was taken back by the allegations, as she informed Sgt. Hunholz and Commander Wagoner that she had ample evidence of text messages that would prove that all encounters with McDonald were purely consensual."

After a series of meetings among Battle, MGPD investigators, Battle's father (a former Broward Sheriff's deputy), and Brooklen, the chief finally met with Battle. He said she had to resign or he would "force McDonald to reopen the fabricated criminal case against her and ruin her career."

Battle also alleges that as she began applying at other police departments, Brooklen used his influence as a chief to tell two other forces not to hire her.

She then hired a lawyer, who contacted Miami Gardens — at this, she says, MGPD offered to rehire her. She adds she was offered a job and told she would receive a start date "shortly." Instead, she says, on September 12, 2016, the city reneged on its offer to rehire her.

Battle (and other media outlets) have brought up the fact Brooklen was promoted to chief despite the fact he had been the subject of a 2009 sex-harassment complaint — in which investigators suspended him for 30 days after they say he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a female crime-scene technician and asked her to meet at a nightclub multiple times. Investigators also found "more than 60" sexually explicit images on his work computer, according to the Herald. (Brooklen was also demoted from major to captain that year for other misconduct.)

On September 21, Battle told the city she intended to sue. The next day, Brooklen resigned.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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