UPDATE: ACLU wades in on police officer’s firing

UPDATE POSTED 5 P.M. FRIDAY, FEB. 19, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The ACLU has waded in ON  Lexington’s firing of a police officer  for violating departmental policy with his interaction with protesters last summer.

The ACLU says the discipline was ill-timed and inappropriate at a time when communities are looking for ways to better bridge the gap between police and some communities.

“The ACLU of Kentucky is concerned Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council fired Officer Jervis Middleton amidst longstanding calls for a radical transformation of policing and transparent relationships with the public. 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,” CLU-KY Executive Director Michael Aldridge said.

“Dialogue between law enforcement and protesters is a productive practice that can decrease conflict and advance the goals of both protesters and police. Simply put, protest organizers should know whether and under what circumstances SWAT units (or other militarized police) will be deployed. Clear channels of communication and shared expectations make tense situations safer for police, protesters, and bystanders. Why does LFUCG feel that this information is so dangerous if shared?

“The status quo of policing must change in Kentucky and throughout the nation. As communities begin to radically reimagine the role police play in public safety, we must examine the ways existing policies and practices perpetuate systemic racism. Community policing cannot progress without meaningful transformation, and creating and ignoring hostile work environments for Black police officers and closing dialogue with the public is the opposite of progress,” Aldridge continued.

The statement didn’t address Middleton’s prior run-ins with police discipline.

UPDATE POSTED 11:30 P.M. THURSDAY, FEB. 19, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – UPDATE: Urban County Council members found Officer Jervis Middleton guilty of two counts and not guilty on one count of violating operational rules.

Council members went into deliberation for about two hours Thursday night.

They voted to terminate Middleton from his position with the Lexington Police Department.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 7 P.M. THURSDAY, FEB. 18, 2021

A disciplinary hearing for a Lexington Police Officer is underway after messages reveal he was in contact with a protest organizer during the ‘Black Lives Matter’ marches last summer.

Officer Jervis Middleton faces dismissal after the Public Integrity Unit determined he shared (PIU) privileged information about police operations with protest leader Sarah Williams. The unit also says he gave personal information about individual officers to Williams to use during protests.

The investigation stemmed from an internal complaint.

The Urban County Council started hearing arguments at 1 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s more important to see it in his lens,” Kevin Sparks, council for Middleton, said during opening remarks. “It’s an act of speech. There was no violence, no damage to property – he simply called out racism in his own department. He did so as a citizen.”

Sparks says Middleton complained about racism in the department several times.

Middleton is charged with misconduct on and off duty, interference with electronic official business of the department and general misconduct.

Several officers within the department have testified so far.

A lieutenant within the PIU said he interviewed Middleton and asked him if he spoke to Williams about any of the privileged information and he denied it until he was presented with evidence to the contrary.

The lieutenant said Middleton didn’t have a clear reason why, but said things such as: he was just venting; he didn’t expect Williams to use the information he gave her; he was only issuing information the police department would normally disseminate, such as during University of Kentucky celebrations.

Chief Lawrence Weathers testified that Middleton should be terminated after receiving the recommendation from the Disciplinary Review Board.

Weathers says he didn’t know about the racism Middleton says he faced and he wishes Middleton told him, but says nothing excuses the communication he had with Williams.

This isn’t the first time Middleton has gone before the Urban County Council. He was demoted after asking officers to drive by and run license plate numbers at a home of a woman he was once in a relationship with, according to the formal complaint.

The hearing will last until 9 p.m. and then the council will deliberate in executive session.

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