GPD hit with yet another discrimination suit

Fired Greensboro police officer Deborah V. Thomas has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the city of Greensboro in federal court.

Three other fired police officers, Charles Cherry, Joseph Pryor and Robert Reyes, have also recently filed a discrimination suit in the federal court. Cherry, a former captain, assisted Thomas in filing grievances acting as a private citizen after he had himself been fired.

Thomas is representing herself in her suit against the city.

In addition to the city of Greensboro, the extensive list of defendants includes former City Manager Rashad Young, former Chief Tim Bellamy, Assistant City Manager Michael Speedling, Chief Ken Miller and 10 out of 25 members of the department's current command staff, along with an employee of the city's human relations department.

Thomas filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Occupation Commission, or EEOC, against the department in March 2011, which was filed as an exhibit with her lawsuit. The complaint references a previous EEOC charge of sex discrimination and retaliation in March 2010.

EEOC investigator Renée Grube wrote Thomas in response:

The processing of your charge of employment discrimination in the above referenced matter has been completed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is dismissing your charge and is issuing you a Notice of Right to Sue.

The evidence obtained by the commission indicates that on January 26, 2010 and again on February 11, 2010, you failed to confiscate knives from students and were appropriately reprimanded for failure to property handle evidence and for improper use of discretion. In May 2010, your supervisor asked you several times to provide him with a copy of a criminal investigative report regarding a complaint that he had received concerning your conduct and attitude at a court appearance. In an act of insubordination, you repeatedly refused to provide the requested information. Although a dismissal was recommended, you received a departmental reprimand and were placed on performance improvement plan. The respondent has the discretion to reassign employees and you were reassigned from school resource to legal support where you would no longer have responsibility for collecting and processing evidence.

Chief Miller informed Thomas of her termination on April 19, 2011. An administrative board comprised of department employees found that Thomas had violated departmental directives related to obedience to orders, procedural steps and general conduct.

Capt. Christopher N. Walker wrote in the findings letter:

On October 14, 2010, Officer Thomas was ordered by her supervisor, Sergeant DJ Davis, to comply fully with Departmental Directive 3.9 regarding the filing of any further grievances.

On October 22, 2010, a grievance was filed by Officer Thomas entitled (in part) “Complaint of continued discrimination, retaliation, intimidation, harassment, hostile work environment, threats, threats of unwarranted disciplinary action…”, directly to the City Manager’s Office without being directed to her supervisor or the resource management division or city human resources. This action was in violation of the direct order given by Sergeant Davis as well as Departmental Directive 3.9.2.

On January 12, 2011, a video entitled “Greensboro police corruption continues — Sgt. DJ Davis, Chief Ken Miller, City Manager Rashad” (Young) was posted on a public website “YouTube.” This video contained what appeared to be three separate audio recordings of conversations between Sergeant DJ Davis and Officer DV Thomas concerning administrative personnel matters. During an administrative investigation, by her own admission, Officer Thomas admitted to personally releasing this information to a private citizen. The public release of this administrative personnel information hinders the department’s efforts to achieve its goals, violates its policies and brings discredit upon the department and its employees. This act is a violation of Departmental Directive 1.5.1 General Conduct.

The Rev. Nelson Johnson, co-pastor at Faith Community Church, said in a letter to Miller last April that he and staff at the Beloved Community Center took full responsibility for posting a YouTube video featuring a conversation between Thomas and Sgt. Darrin Davis. Johnson said he believed even after learning Thomas was investigated and disciplined for the incident that he believed posting the video was in her and the department’s best interest.

Thomas filed a third EEOC charge in June 2011 following her firing, again alleging continued discrimination, harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

EEOC investigator Renée Grube responded:

The processing of your charge of employment discrimination in the above referenced matter has been completed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is dismissing your charge and is issuing to you a Notice of Right to Sue.

The evidence obtained by the commission indicates that in a previous EEOC charge you alleged disparate treatment due to your race and sex when your supervisor, Sergeant Heard, disciplined you several times and recommended your termination. Instead of termination, you were placed on a performance improvement plan and assigned to a different supervisor, Sergeant Davis, and to a new position in the legal process section. In this charge, you now allege that your new supervisor, Sgt. Davis, discriminated against you because of your sex and disability. In your 90-day performance review, Sgt. Davis noted that you are not approachable, you do not accept positive or negative feedback from your supervisor, you do not adhere to city policy and department directives, and you are not willing to accept your role as a subordinate functioning effectively in a paramilitary organization. You were discharged because your behavior was insubordinate, you violated policy, and because you lacked the good judgment required of a law enforcement officer. The evidence is insufficient to show that you were treated disparately because of your sex, your face, your alleged disability, or in retaliation for filing previous charges.

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