Sierra Fox, posing with West Union K-9 officer Xena, says she was forced to resign as the city’s only female police officer two months after she filed a civil rights complaint alleging sexual harassment and gender discrimination by West Union Police Chief Paul Berthold.

WEST UNION – Residents plan to rally Thursday to show support for a West Union police officer who said she was forced to step down after lodging complaints about the department’s chief.

The move comes following a Monday night City Council meeting that curtailed public comment on the matter as members voted on Officer Sierra Fox’s resignation.

“The council wouldn’t listen to us during their meeting the other night. If you don’t want to hear what we have to say, we will show you what we have to say by putting it on signs and things like that,” said Heather Bettmeng, who is organizing the protest scheduled to begin 9 a.m. Thursday at West Union City Hall.

Organizers are asking attendees to park across the street at the Fayette County Fairgrounds to keep streets around City Hall and the adjacent police station open for emergency traffic.

The heart of the issue, according Bettmeng, is a decision to have Fox, a K-9 handler, surrender her four-legged partner, Xena, to the department upon her departure. She said community members want Fox to be able to keep Xena.

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“German shepherds in general, the breed, they bond with one person and they have massive anxiety if they are taken out of that situation,” Bettmeng said.

“They are planning to just kennel her until further notice. They won’t be using her as a K-9 unit because they don’t have a handler in the department. Yes, she’s a working member of the law enforcement team, but she also deserves off time and the comforts of home and someone she trusts,” she said.

Bettmeng said Xena and the accompanying training were paid for by donations from the community. The department sold T-shirts and held raffles to collect money outside tax funds.

Fox has until noon Friday to return Xena to the police department, and organizers said they plan to remain on the streets in front of City Hall into Friday unless city officials reverse their decision.

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Police and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Courier

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