Litchfield police chief charged with sexually harassing staff member

Dec. 29—Litchfield Police Chief Benjamin Sargent has been charged with sexually harassing a female staff member after multiple phone calls on New Year's Eve 2021, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Sargent, 43, of Hudson, is set to be arraigned for one Class B misdemeanor of official oppression on Jan. 12 in the 9th Circuit Court. A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $1,200, according to a news release.

The complaints were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in April and May. The charge is for official oppression when Sargent "knowingly committed an unauthorized act, which purported to be an act of his office, with a purpose to benefit himself or another or to harm another, by sexually harassing a subordinate in violation of official policy."

Sargent was placed on leave in June as a result of the investigation. His name and email still appear on the department's website. His current status is unknown.

According to court documents, Sargent initiated a phone call with the officer who was on duty and said he was stressed and drinking a lot over the holidays. He began to explain his "wife was not happy with him" and would leave him because of his drinking, according to the complaint.

He suggested on the phone that he had a crush on the officer and she should come to his house with a bottle of wine, "adding that if she did, he would tell her about 'his feelings' toward her in person,'" the complaint reads.

When talking to an attorney, Sargent denied expressing romantic or sexual interest, according to the complaint.

In all, the chief had four phone conversations — one about 96 minutes and the other about an hour — and text message exchanges. The employee said the chief sounded more intoxicated during the second call.

The employee described the chief as "having slurred speech and near incoherent" in a call at 11 the next morning.

During a fourth phone call, Sargent spoke of his marital issues and how a repeated statement meant, "I love you." He told her he knows he's "short and fat."

The town of Litchfield and Police Department have policies prohibiting sexual harassment.

The calls came after reports that Sargent "was drunk and driving around with a pistol in his mouth." Police were called to his house where they found him intoxicated.

Sargent described himself as "legally intoxicated" during the phone calls.

A reporter reached out to Sargent on Thursday afternoon seeking comment. He received an email from Litchfields' acting Police Chief Mike French stating: The town has no comment."