State agency confirms investigation into former Dunwoody Police officer accused of sexual harassment

Former Dunwoody Police Officer Fidel Espinoza (File photo)

The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) has confirmed that it has opened an investigation into former Dunwoody Police Lt. Fidel Espinoza, who resigned from the force in 2020 after multiple officers accused him of soliciting nude photos and sexual favors in exchange for lucrative off-duty jobs.

Chris Harvey, the deputy director of POST, said Espinoza is being investigated for conduct unbecoming an officer and sexual harassment.

The case was opened on April 29. However, Harvey said that POST will not release any information about the person or entity that requested the investigation.

“All I can tell you is that we don’t initiate investigations on our own,” Harvey said. “We investigate claims that are brought to us. Whether someone brings it to us one day later or years later is up to them.”

While not specifically commenting on the Espinoza case, Harvey said investigators typically interview those with knowledge into the allegations and examine relevant documents before referring their findings to a probable cause committee that will make recommendations about the person being investigated.

“There are several things that could happen – they may recommend no action be taken at all, they may ask to place that person on probation, recommend suspension of certification, or revoke that person’s certification in the state of Georgia,” Harvey said.

He did not put a timeline on Espinoza’s case, saying that that cases can take a week or months until it is referred to the probable cause committee, depending on its complexity. He also said the results of an investigation could spur more changes, if applicable.

Former Dunwoody police department employee Brian Bolden confirmed on May 13 that he was interviewed by POST investigators.

“Today I spent two hours with the investigators,” he said. “I will say that it’s been a long time coming, and that they are well-acquainted with the case.”

Bolden, a former prisoner transport officer for the department, was fired in 2022 after a weeks-long internal investigation about whether he had violated certain department policies.

Earlier that year, Bolden was accused of breaking departmental policies related to “public criticism” and “misuse of position” regarding his actions surrounding the arrest of former officer Robert Parsons on DUI charges.

The department accused Bolden of leaking information about Parson’s DUI arrest, his second, to the media.

Bolden is one of multiple former officers who accused former Lt. Fidel Espinoza of bullying and sexual harrasment in 2020. Espinoza resigned in May of that year during an internal investigation.

The investigation found that Espinoza did send improper, sexual messages to officers and employees, but claimed that he did not harass or coerce them.

Former officer Bryan Castellanos filed a lawsuit against Espinoza alleging that the lieutenant requested sexual favors from him and took a photo of Castellanos while he was using a urinal. Leila Castellanos, who is also included in the suit, also claims that Espinoza texted her and asked inappropriate questions regarding her relationship with her husband.

Espinoza, in an October 2023 deposition, claimed that any activity between him and Castellanos was consensual. That case is ongoing. Espinoza now lives in Florida and is no longer working in law enforcement.

POST, according to its website, provides “the citizens of Georgia with qualified, professionally trained, ethical and competent peace officers and criminal justice professionals.”

POST operates under the umbrella of the state’s department of public safety. In 2023, POST compiled 1,561 investigations, according to Harvey.

The city’s first and only police chief, Billy Grogan, announced his retirement from the post early this year. His successor, Mike Carlson, assumed the job on April 12.

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