The El Paso Police Department Headquarters on Raynor Street. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Two El Paso police supervisors have been charged with official oppression stemming from alleged sexual harassment against two women officers, officials announced Wednesday night.

Police Lt. John Surface, 43, and Sgt. Adan Chavez, 44, were booked and released at the county jail Wednesday afternoon. Police said in a statement they had been “relieved of duty.”

“The investigation revealed disturbing incidents involving explicit requests and coercive behavior by Surface and Chavez. These allegations are taken with the utmost seriousness, as the well-being and trust of our officers and the community are of paramount importance. Such behavior not only contradicts the values of our department but also undermines the collaborative and respectful environment we strive to foster,” the statement said. 

The police statement provided few details of the allegations against the two veteran officers. Surface, who faces two counts of official oppression, has been on the force for 19 years. Chavez, who has been with the El Paso Police Department for 21 years, faces one count of official oppression.

Official oppression is a Class A misdemeanor that involves a public servant intentionally denying another their rights, subjecting them to mistreatment or arrest, or subjecting them to sexual harassment. A Class A misdemeanor such as official oppression carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine.

Jail booking records list Surface’s offense date as Tuesday; Chavez’s offense date is listed as May 27.

The arrests come in the wake of a months-long El Paso Matters investigation into the department’s repeated history of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and gender discrimination – which various current and former EPPD employees said created a hostile workplace for women.

A number of officers – women and men – told El Paso Matters that El Paso police have long had a culture that didn’t take sexual harassment seriously and put women officers at risk from their fellow officers.

Wednesday’s arrests are the latest in a string of recent criminal charges brought against El Paso  police officers. Last month, the Police Department arrested five of its officers on separate charges, including domestic violence and sexual assault. 

Officer Guadalupe Sosa was arrested on July 7 on charges of sexual assault in connection to an April 2018 incident when the 15-year veteran of the department was off-duty.  Officer Joshua Anthony Gallardo was arrested two days later when EPPD responded to a family violence assault in progress. Gallardo, who was also off-duty, hit and choked the female victim, according to the investigation. 

Three other officers were arrested in July for their alleged involvement in covering up a hit-and-run in March.

“We believe that accountability is a fundamental aspect of maintaining public trust and ensuring the highest level of service to our community,” Wednesday’s police statement said. “The El Paso Police Department remains steadfast in its mission to protect and serve the citizens of El Paso. We stand united against any behavior that tarnishes the reputation of law enforcement and are resolute in our commitment to transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement.”

8:25 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30. This story has been updated with information from a police statement.

El Paso native Cindy Ramirez has spent most of her career in journalism, with some stints in public and media relations and military reporting. She's covered everything from education to local government...