A Metro Nashville Police sergeant has filed a federal lawsuit against several high-ranking members of the department. Michelle Hammond-Beville says leaders of MNPD’s Office of Professional Accountability violated her civil rights and punished her unnecessarily.
“Plaintiff suffered emotional damage, career damage and financial losses as a result of Defendants’ unfounded MNPD disciplinary hearing,” Hammond-Beville’s attorney writes in a lawsuit filed last week.
Hammond-Beville was decommissioned in early 2018 after a family member accused her of child abuse.
Temporarily reassigning an officer is fairly common practice while the Office of Professional Accountability investigates an allegation of misconduct. And it’s a process Hammond-Beville has seen play out time and again; she joined the OPA, the unit that investigates complaints against officers, in 2016.
However, the sergeant alleges that team did not follow proper protocols in her case. She says Director Kathy Morante, Lt. Jason Sharpe and investigator Ron Carter refused to reinstate her for months after both law enforcement and the Department of Children’s Services cleared her.
Hammond-Beville waited more than a year-and-a-half for police to grant her a hearing or drop their case against her. In the meantime, members of the department reportedly pressured her to resign or accept a demotion, even though neither internal nor external investigations uncovered any evidence of child abuse.
The police department eventually dismissed its case against Hammond-Beville in September and reinstated her. But she claims that the drawn-out disciplinary process was a form of discrimination.
While working in OPA, the sergeant came to believe that white males who were popular within the department seemed to be protected from discipline, while other groups were disproportionately punished.
Hammond-Beville “spoke out against the practice of protecting politically favored officers and the practice of unfairly prosecuting disfavored officers,” her attorney writes. “On information and belief, Defendants Morante, Sharpe and Carter developed a bias against Plaintiff due to her protests against OPA’s practices.”
The police department referred WPLN News to Metro Legal, which could not immediately comment on the case.
According to Metro Legal, at least eight current and former MNPD employees have sued the department in the past five years, not including Hammond-Beville, whose suit only names specific members of OPA. Police records show that 36 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination complaints have been filed in the past decade.
Outside law enforcement meddled in MNPD’s investigation, lawsuit alleges
The lawsuit doesn’t merely allege misconduct within MNPD. It also names the government of Cheatham County, as well as its former sheriff’s deputy Jeff Landis.
According to the lawsuit, Landis, who indicted Hammond-Beville on child abuse charges, is also partially to blame. She says the deputy charged her without probable cause, despite the fact that her accuser had recanted.
The suit alleges that he also pressed MNPD to fire Hammond-Beville.
However, several months later, the deputy was the one who was asked to resign. The Cheatham County district attorney told the sheriff that the deputy had been impeached in court so many times that he could no longer be considered a reliable witness.
The prosecutor’s office has since dismissed all of the deputy’s criminal cases, including his charges against Hammond-Beville.
Neither Cheatham County nor the sheriff’s office immediately responded to requests for comment.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.