Army officer at Cal Poly accused of spying on girls in dressing rooms

February 6, 2023

Lt.Col. Jacob Sweatland


An Army  lieutenant colonel assigned as the head of the Cal Poly ROTC unit faces criminal charges after a preteen girl found a spy camera in a dressing room at a store in Pismo Beach. The girl thought it was a key fob that had been dropped in the dressing room.

But a closer examination showed it was a video camera.

Lt.Col. Jacob Sweatland, who did not identify himself as an Army officer, called the store several times asking if someone had found his “key fob.” Pismo Beach Police had opened an investigation after a review of the camera’s contents showed photos from changing rooms in multiple stores.

The store clerk, working with the police, told the man on a later call that the fob had been found and that he could come in and pick it up.

When Lt.Col. Sweatland walked into the store, he noticed officers and fled on foot. It took about 20 minutes for officers to track him down. They arrested him on charges of resisting arrest and for invasion of privacy by recording in a dressing room, both crimes are misdemeanors.

The arrest raises questions about Lt.Col. Sweatland’s future Army service. He had been a fast-rising officer in the Army. In 2007, the 24-year-old Sweatland, a  first lieutenant, represented the 25th Infantry Division, stationed in Hawaii, in the “Best Ranger Competition.” It was not immediately clear if Sweatland was or is an actual member of the elite Army Rangers.

Promoted to major, Sweatland graduated from the Naval War College Monterey in the top 15 percent of his class. A few years later, Sweatland was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Promotion to major and  lieutenant colonel made Sweatland a field-grade officer, a senior military officer.

National security protocols can remove anyone’s security clearances in the event the person is seen as being at risk of being compromised because of vulnerabilities from personal conduct that violates the law or puts him in a position of needing money.

Because of current laws in California, Sweatland could be eligible for misdemeanor diversion, meaning he could divert his sentence for one year. During that time he would need to abide by all laws and complete community service requirements.

After successful completion of the diversion program, his cases would be dismissed and the arrest upon which the diversion program was imposed will be deemed to have never occurred.

Lt.Col. Sweatland is the chair of the Military Science and Leadership Department at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. He mentors young men and women who sign contracts to serve in the Army in return for financial support during college.

Following his arrest,  Lt.Col. Sweatland, 39, took leave from his assignment at Cal Poly, though he technically remains the department chair, an officer who identified herself as Major Roberts said.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

He claimed that as a Union Leader he was conducting an undercover investigation using equipment from his family farm in Atascadero. Thus, charges of theft and misappropriation of government assets will not be brought against him. Don’t worry, all of the videos have been deemed classified top secret and will never see the light of day.

He could find himself being a registered sex offender.

Tribune probably won’t cover this because they always protect Cal Poly. Kudos to Velie for sharing the story. She’s the only one so far.

How many other “key fobs” has he placed in other girls’ changing rooms? Any at Cal Poly? I hope campus police will check very thoroughly. Such a stupid thing to do.

The even more stupid thing was for him to call and ask if they found his “key fob”, and then run away when he saw the cops. Should be an easy conviction.

According to his arm patch he is a ranger (or was)

Maybe he subscribes to the George Santos school of resume building?

This unfortunately could be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. One hopes spying on underage children would constitute a felony.

Shocking to learn that spying with a camera in a changing room is a misdemeanor crime. In this case, losing his career may be the better punishment. What a freak.

He won’t be “sir” much longer. So much to lose…

Maybe LT. Col. Toast should claim he just happened to find it when it fell from the Chinese Spy Balloon.

Sir, you are toast!