The City of Des Moines has confirmed the former president of the Des Moines police union sent explicit and unsolicited photos of himself, including many nude pictures, to four female co-workers. A spokesperson also said that the union boss, Stew Barnes, was allowed by the department to retire last year before he could face reprimand. Had he faced disciplinary proceedings for misconduct, Barnes would not have been allowed to retire with full benefits. A lawsuit, first reported by the Des Moines Register, has now been filed against the department and the city by five women—the four officers and a civilian IT employee assigned to the police.
The suit, filed Tuesday, alleges “overwhelming evidence” of his harassment of colleagues, as well as employees of a tanning salon and a credit union. Barnes badgered the female officers over texts to participate in a “naked dare game” for months during 2019 and 2020, despite repeated requests to stop. The filing also claims Barnes used “police resources to find and stalk women in the public.” Tracy Rhoads, the lead plaintiff, said she complained multiple times to her department, her supervisors, the city’s human resources department, and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, but that nothing changed and she was blamed for the harassment herself.