A Beverly Hills police officer has been accused of ogling the naked corpse of Whitney Houston after she was found drowned at her hotel. According to another officer at the scene, detective sergeant Terry Nutall "contaminated" and "mistreated" the body of the singer, removing a sheet that was being used to "preserve the dignity of the remains".

In a formal complaint to the California labour department, patrol sergeant Brian Weir described his experiences on 11 February 2012, when he was the first officer to arrive at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Although Houston's assistant and bodyguard had already removed her from the bathtub where she died, Weir was the one to cover the body. Besides matters of privacy, he said he wanted "to prevent contamination or potential DNA and other potential evidence".

Shortly thereafter, Weir claims, Nutall arrived. "For no legitimate law enforcement … purpose," Weir wrote, "[Nutall] knelt beside and leaned over the decedent, removed the sheet … to an area below the pubic region … and came in close proximity to touching the body of the decedent while making inappropriate comments … that the decedent 'looked attractive for a woman of her age and current state', and 'Damn, she's still looking good, huh?'"

Nutall "treated the dead body … in a way that would outrage ordinary family sensibilities", Weir alleged. And besides the postmortem sexual harassment, Nutall apparently "moved the body of the decedent from the position of death without the permission of the coroner", "contaminating potential DNA" and "harming the integrity of the scene".

In the days following this incident, Weir maintains he complained to his superiors and even to officials at the Beverly Hills government. But instead of punishing Nutall, officers such as police chief David Snowden and captain Toby Lee allegedly "retaliated" against Weir – harassing and ostracising him, stripping him of his "coveted positions" on the Swat and K-9 squads, as well as denying him promotions, training and overtime pay. Meanwhile, Nutall was promoted to lieutenant.

Weir is now seeking economic and non-economic damages, citing the affair's material impact on his career and the emotional stress he has sustained. But police spokesman Lincoln Hoshino denied there was "any inappropriate behaviour" at the scene, or that there has been any subsequent "retaliation" against Weir. "It is appropriate for a responding detective sergeant to briefly examine the body upon arriving to a scene like that," he said. "At this time we're not aware of any … inappropriate comments."

In an autopsy report by the Los Angeles coroner's office, Houston's death was found to be an accidental drowning. "The effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use" were described as "contributing factors". She was 49.

One of the most successful singers of all time, Houston sold more than 170m records over the course of her three-decade career.