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Kentucky Police Officer Fired For Giving Black Lives Matter Protest Leader Info On Cops

February 20, 2021

A police officer in Lexington, Kentucky, was fired early Friday morning after being accused of providing information about other cops to a Black Lives Matter protest organizer.

According to the Herald-Leader, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council announced that officer Jervis Middleton had been released “shortly after 1 a.m. Friday after a nine-hour police hearing and more than two hours of closed-door deliberations.” The outlet reported that the police chief and internal police disciplinary board recommended Middleton be terminated “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.”

The council, which serves as the legislative branch of county government, unanimously found Middleton guilty of “overall misconduct” and “sharing internal police information,” according to the report. Middleton had also been charged with being dishonest about his communications with Williams, a charge that was dismissed.

Fox 56 News acquired 14 pages of information related to the probe through a public records request. According to the documents, Williams had been arrested last June for multiple charges, including inciting a riot.

“During their investigation a search warrant was obtained for all records located on the phone and the apps downloaded to it,” a report by the Lexington Police Department said. “While reviewing these records concerning conversations between Officer Jervis Middletown and Sarah Williams were located on the Facebook Messenger App and forwarded to the Public Integrity Unit for investigation.”

“Ms. Williams and her followers launched personal attacks and insults towards individual officers, weaponizing information they obtained, in an effort to embarrass the officers, and impair the efficiency of the agency,” the police report continued. “These attacks, along with the other protestors’ demands, created an unduly amount of stress on the officers and impacted their ability to maintain a professional demeanor during the protests.”

“Throughout this time period it appears that Officer Jervis Middleton advised Ms. Williams that certain officers and command staff were ‘racists’ and directed her to call them out during the protest. He also provided her copies of sensitive ‘law enforcement only’ communications, including emails and text messages which outlined staffing, operational, and deployment plans,” the report added.

The Herald-Leader reported that the protests last year “went on for 59 nights during the summer,” and:

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. …

Lt. David Biroschick of the public integrity unit, which investigates complaints against officers, testified Thursday that Middleton at first lied to investigators about providing the information to Williams. When confronted with evidence of the communication, he finally admitted it.

Police testified Thursday that Middleton shared a screenshot of a notice that the department’s emergency response unit, or its tactical or SWAT team, would be called out to help with the protest. The other information shared with Williams was an email asking if officers wanted to work the protests.

The ACLU of Kentucky issued a statement on Friday evening expressing concern that Middleton “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.”

“Dialogue between law enforcement and protesters is a productive practice that can decrease conflict and advance the goals of both protesters and police,” said ACLU of Kentucky Executive Director Michael Aldridge. “Simply put, protest organizers should know whether and under what circumstances SWAT unit (or other militarized police) will be deployed. Clear channels of communication and shared expectations make tense situations safer for police, protesters, and bystanders.”

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