A police officer in Kentucky was fired on Feb. 19 over allegations he provided a Black Lives Matter organizer with information about other officers in the department during protests last year.
Lexington Police Officer Jervis Middleton was fired after a unanimous vote by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, according to local reports. The council found Middleton guilty on two of three counts of violating operational rules.
“Officer Middleton’s conduct during a highly stressful and potentially vulnerable time during the history of our community—the most significant policing event in our community in 20 years—demonstrates that he should no longer be a police officer,” Keith Horn, a lawyer with the city, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Middleton challenged his termination and said the information didn’t jeopardize officers’ safety and was free speech. Middleton, who is black, said he faced racial taunts and discrimination in the department. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) division in Kentucky also weighed in.
“The ACLU of Kentucky is concerned (the) Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council fired Officer Jervis Middleton amidst longstanding calls for a radical transformation of policing and transparent relationships with the public,” said Executive Director Michael Aldridge in a statement to Kentucky.com.
“While Officer Middleton’s actions may warrant some level of disciplinary action, it is particularly concerning he was more swiftly investigated and harshly punished for sharing non-critical information than officers who use excessive force against protesters or create the culture of racism and hostility Middleton reported to no avail.”
Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers said a police disciplinary board recommended that Middleton be fired after he shared information with Black Lives Matter and allegedly lied about it, according to the Herald-Leader. The paper also reported that Middleton used police resources to look up information about a woman who he was allegedly involved with.
“I felt like the discipline he received last time should have been a message to him and allow him to come back and become the officer that I know he can be,” Weathers said. “After this, I just can’t see him coming back. To me, it was a violation of trust and a violation of the position of a police officer. He was supposed to protect the public but he should also protect his fellow officers.”
Investigators wrote that Middleton advised protest organizer Sarah Williams that “certain officers and command staff were ‘racists’ and directed her to call them out during the protests” last year.
“He also provided her copies of sensitive ‘law enforcement only’ communications, including emails and text messages which outlined staffing, operational, and deployment plans. Based upon conversations between Ms. Williams and Officer Middleton, it is reasonable to believe that he knew what she would do and how she would use it against the officers and the agency once she received it,” they wrote.
“There were also incidents where Officer Middleton actively encouraged Ms. Williams [tp] curse out and use the personal information he provided in a manner to embarrass the officers involved.”