MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee Fire Department employee has been charged with second degree sexual assault.
35-year-old Michael Peden made his first appearance in court on Thursday after spending the past five days in jail.
Court records show the alleged victim, a female firefighter, claims Peden forcefully grabbed her private parts between August and October while on the job at a south-side fire station.
“Mr. Peden adamantly denies the accusations against him,” said defense attorney Rebecca Coffee.
Peden has been with the fire department since 2010 and served as the alleged victim’s superior. His current title is Heavy Equipment Operator.
In court, the state asked for more than just cash bail, requesting Peden wear a GPS tracking device and have no contact with the alleged victim. While Coffee argued the tracking device wasn’t necessary for her client, the judge took the state’s recommendations.
Peden’s bail has been set at $3,500. As of Thursday night, he was being held in jail until a GPS tracking device became available. He’s due back in court in a couple weeks.
Thursday afternoon, the Milwaukee Fire Department held a news conference to address the allegations against their employee. Assistant Fire Chief Gerard Washington said the department is taking the claims seriously. They are conducting their own investigation into the matter.
"The Milwaukee Fire Department takes any claims of sexual harassment very seriously we have zero tolerance for that,” he said.
Fire department supervisors did not take any questions at the news conference.
The Milwaukee Fire Department offered the following statement in a news conference Thursday:
The Milwaukee Fire Department takes harassment claims very seriously, and has several policies in place to provide a safe work environment for its members that is free from harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination based upon age, race, national origin, disability, creed (religion), color, marital status, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, arrest record, conviction record, or military forces services.
Members who have knowledge of discrimination or harassment against other
members are to report the alleged violation to the Assistant Chief of Support through the chain-of-command. Failure to do so will result in discipline against said members.
Members who engage in discrimination or harassment, as defined by any relevant federal or state statute, or city ordinance, or any federal, state, city or department rule or regulation pertaining to discrimination or harassment are subject to discipline, up to and including discharge.
The Milwaukee Fire Department Administration is currently conducting an ongoing internal investigation relative to a harassment complaint filed by this female firefighter against Heavy Equipment Operator Michael Peden. This investigation is separate and distinct from the criminal investigation against Michael Peden.