The Lexington council fired a police officer accused of leaking information about other officers to Black Lives Matter protesters, and the Kentucky ACLU sharply criticized the dismissal.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council announced its decision shortly after 1 a.m. Friday after a nine-hour police hearing and more than two hours of closed-door deliberations. Under the state’s open meetings law, the council can deliberate on personnel matters in closed session.
Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers and an internal police disciplinary board recommended officer Jervis Middleton be fired for violating several department policies for providing information — including details about officers working during the protest — to Black Lives Matter protest leader Sarah Williams, a friend of Middleton’s.
Middleton was accused of overall misconduct, sharing internal police information and for being dishonest about his communication with Williams. The council found him guilty of the first two administrative charges but not guilty of the third charge. The council’s vote was unanimous.
Middleton challenged his termination, saying the information he provided Williams did not jeopardize officers’ safety and was free speech. During Thursday’s hearing, lawyers for Middleton, who is Black, said Middleton has faced repeated racial taunts and discrimination from fellow officers and was frustrated because nothing had been done to address his longstanding concerns about racism in the department. Middleton was also frustrated about the repeated killings of Black Americans by police officers.
“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. “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.”