MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee police officer has filed a federal lawsuit claiming he has been harassed by fellow officers and passed over for promotions because he is black.
Murfreesboro Officer Christopher Williams says in the lawsuit against the city and Chief Michael Bowen that the department has engaged in discriminatory policies to keep African Americans from being promoted, news outlets reported.
This is at least the fifth racial discrimination lawsuit field against the city, according to The Daily News Journal.
Williams says in the lawsuit filed last month that he reported the mishandling of a 2016 incident in which 10 elementary school students were arrested. He says two white officers cocked a gun and aimed at him during a meeting at the department about the school incident.
The lawsuit also says a fellow officer screamed racially degrading terms at Williams because of his complexion, and a fellow officer accused him of choosing “black lives over blue lives” meaning the lives of black residents over police officers.
Williams says he's been an officer in Murfreesboro since 2011. He says no black officer has been promoted since 2014.
Bowen created a promotion policy in 2017 while he was assistant chief. The policy states promotions would be determined based on a test, psychoanalysis, essay and interview with a panel of officers from departments in middle Tennessee.
Williams says four white officers were promoted to sergeant after the policy was created. He says he and another black officer were fifth and sixth in line for promotions. When two new sergeant positions became available, Williams says he and the other black officer weren't promoted and Bowen left the sergeant positions vacant for close to a year.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination complaints were filed by Williams and other black officers in 2018. After the filing, the lawsuit says Bowen said black officers “had no leadership abilities.”
“The City of Murfreesboro and Chief Bowen strongly deny all allegations of discrimination and/or wrongdoing asserted by Officer Williams in his lawsuit,” Matthew Lonergan, an attorney for the city, said in a statement to news outlets. “It is our practice not to address any specific allegations in the complaint or to comment further while the lawsuit is pending.”