More than a dozen minority employees of Nashville’s police department tell WPLN News they feel they’ve faced unequal treatment, and in at least one recent case, the Metro Civil Service Commission has agreed.
Members recently overturned her demotion after her lawyer argued she’d been punished more severely than male officers.
In September 2017, Sergeant Kim Forsyth made what she calls a “careless” comment on a photo of a transgender woman that one of her co-workers posted on Facebook.
“I didn’t even look at the picture. I just saw my friends saying funny things,” Forsyth says. “Never thought another thing about it.”
But she says that comment led to her “downfall from the department.”
About a year later, the Facebook thread leaked to the media. Then, Forsyth was demoted, as was the male sergeant who posted the photo. But other male officers who commented received lighter punishments.
Forsyth’s attorney, Kyle Mothershead, told the Civil Service Commission he thinks the discipline reflects a pattern of unfairness.
“Who gets the grace to make a mistake at Metro Nashville Police Department?” he asked commissioners at a meeting this past September. “Cis, heterosexual, white males seem to get that grace a lot of the time. Forsyth, the out lesbian, has been kind of navigating this boys’ club for 20 years, she doesn’t get that grace.”
Mothershead compared it to the case of Captain Jason Reinbold, who had been suspended — but not demoted — for yelling at a nanny and the children she was babysitting outside his home this spring. A video of the incident went viral online. After the babysitter filed a complaint, Reinbold was suspended for 11 days, police records show.
Silent No Longer TN, a group that supports survivors of sexual assault, says multiple current and former employees have come to them with allegations of sexual misconduct against Reinbold. He was suspended last month for making unauthorized copies of department records on a public computer.
After accepting the department’s suggested punishment, Reinbold announced his retirement. He will be leaving in good standing.
The commission ultimately determined that Forsyth had been unfairly punished and voted to overturn her demotion this September.
Asked for comment on the case, an MNPD spokesperson said in an email that newly appointed Chief John Drake “has made it a priority to attract, promote and retain female officers to the Metro Nashville Police Department.” She says a Deputy Chief Kay Lokey, the highest ranking woman in MNPD’s sworn staff, has also been meeting with female employees “to frankly discuss their needs and concerns.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.
You can send tips for this investigation to Samantha Max at [email protected]