A Nashville police officer filed a federal discrimination lawsuit Friday against the Metro Nashville government and one of the police department’s commanders.
In the lawsuit, Officer Monica Blake alleged that the Metro government and Metro Nashville Police Department Commander Janet Pardue retaliated against Blake for accusing another officer of sexually assaulting her in 2016, and for filing complaints that alleged Pardue was discriminating against Blake for her race and gender.
According to Blake’s lawsuit, earlier this year the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office dropped the rape charge against the other officer in Blake’s sexual assault case, and the defendant entered a plea deal for judicial diversion on an aggravated assault charge.
While the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee generally does not name victims of sexual assault, Blake agreed to be named for this story.
Blake, an African-American officer who has worked for the department since 2005, also alleges in the lawsuit that Nashville police policies infringe on her right to free speech.
The lawsuit states that the department’s defamation, derogatory notices and social media policies “illegally prohibit its employees from speaking out on matters of public concern in a way that MNPD perceives as negative for MNPD.”
“I think it is a really important case,” Blake’s lawyer Kyle Mothershead said. “There has been a lot of talk, especially after the ‘Driving While Black’ report, about how the department is treating the public, but not about how it is treating officers, how much respect is accorded to them and whether their rights are being honored.”
The “Driving While Black” report was a racial bias study from 2016 conducted by Gideon’s Army, a nonprofit that focuses on keeping children out of the criminal justice system. Mayor David Briley said last month he believed the results from the report that scrutinized 2 million traffic stops. Previously, Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson called the findings “morally disingenuous.”
Blake filed the suit Friday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said the Metro Department of Law will respond to and defend this litigation.
Metro Law Director Jon Cooper said the department does not comment on pending federal court litigation.
What’s in the lawsuit
Blake’s problems with the department started over a card game, according to the lawsuit.
She and seven other black officers were punished after playing Cards Against Humanity during a summer camp program for kids and community building, the filing states.
For taking the down time to play the game, she received a three-day suspension. The suit alleges Blake received a more severe punishment than white male officers with more serious infractions.
The lawsuit gives, as examples, officers skipping out of work to hang out at a fellow officer’s home and a case against a DUI officer who allegedly arrested a sober person.
Mothershead said the environment at the department worsened when Blake gave her support to the campaign for a community police oversight board, which Nashville voters approved in a November referendum.
“Officers still have first amendment rights, and they need to be able to exercise them,” he said.