AP NEWS

Suit: W-B Officials ‘tolerated’ Officer’s Sexual Abuse

May 9, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — Three women who allege former Wilkes-Barre police officer Robert Collins sexually assaulted them while on duty filed a civil complaint Thursday against the officer and the city, alleging officials failed to address repeated sexual misconduct claims going back for years.

“Wilkes-Barre City was deliberately indifferent to Collins’ misconduct and condoned the obvious consequences of its failure to properly supervise and discipline Collins,” says the lawsuit, filed by attorneys with the Dyller Law Firm in Wilkes-Barre. 

“By permitting Collins to continue working for Wilkes-Barre City after receiving complaints and being notified of Collins’ misconduct, Wilkes-Barre City created a situation where the violation of the plaintiffs’ and others’ Constitutional rights was a highly predictable consequence, and a situation likely to recur.”

Collins, 53, of Wright Twp., is accused of preying on vulnerable women and threatening to put them in jail if they didn’t perform oral sex on him. He is currently awaiting trial on rape and related charges alleging he pressured four women into sex acts while he was on duty.

The lawsuit filed Thursday includes only three of the alleged victims. The fourth woman has retained a separate attorney, according to court documents.

As do the criminal charges, the civil complaint alleges Collins forced two of the women to perform oral sex on him under threat of arrest, and that he fondled and masturbated in front of the third woman.

But the civil complaint also alleges that city officials were aware of misconduct by Collins long before the criminal charges were filed. In June 2011, the police chief was warned of “multiple complaints about Collins,” according to the suit.

The chief at the time, Gerard Dessoye, responded by saying extra scrutiny of Collins was not necessary, according to the complaint.

“This warning predated all of the events described in this complaint between Collins and the plaintiffs,” attorneys Barry H. Dyller, Shelley L. Centini and Theron J. Solomon wrote in the complaint.

The filing alleges that city officials learned Collins was under investigation in 2014, yet failed to remove him from situations where he would be able to commit further misconduct. Instead, city officials promoted Collins to community policing officer in 2016, the complaint says.

“Meanwhile, Collins’ misconduct continued, and was known by and tolerated by Wilkes-Barre City,” according to the complaint.

The filing alleges another case of sexual abuse that took place in April 2009, in which Collins offered to “make it all go away” if a woman accused of providing a false identification performed a sex act on him. The woman began to comply but then stopped, and an angry Collins charged her with forgery and other offenses, the complaint says.

When the woman later became a police informant, she told another officer about the incident and was told “a lot of people” have made similar claims against Collins and that she was “not the only one,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges several other cases of misconduct, including that he directed one woman to use cocaine in his presence and to watch pornographic videos with him, and that he followed around another woman making sexually suggestive comments to her while in uniform.

The suit alleges Collins “developed a reputation in the community” because of women’s “forced sexual contacts” with him. When a prostitute was arrested in 2013, she told the officer processing her that she feared Collins, according to the complaint.

“The female requested that the officer not leave her and her friend alone with Collins,” the lawsuit alleges.

City officials have declined to comment on the suit, citing a policy against speaking about pending litigation.