Nineteen current and former Metro Nashville Police officers say they have been sexually assaulted, harassed or discriminated against because of their gender or race, according a former sex abuse detective who’s launched her own investigation.
One woman calls the department a “boys club” and says anyone who complains about harassment can expect their reputation and career to be “shot to hell.” Another says she was called “Aunt Jemima” and was groped at work so many times that she’d cry all the way home and could hardly sleep.
A third says she slept with a captain, because it was easier than hiding from him. Now, she has panic attacks every time she sees him. She says she hopes to get sick or die in the line of duty, anything to “make it all go away.”
These were responses to a survey that’s been circulating among current and former female Nashville police officers. Former Detective Greta McClain compiled the stories of these women, who have asked to remain anonymous, after one reached out to her in mid-April, claiming that she’d been sexually assaulted.
“There are 19 women who felt the climate within the Metro Police Department was so toxic that they couldn’t safely report incidents or find justice, so they reached out to people they didn’t even know,” McClain said during a press conference over Zoom on Wednesday. “Nineteen women felt safer trusting perfect strangers than those in power who were supposed to lead them, support them and protect them.”
McClain says she can relate to that sense of fear: She blamed herself after her own sexual assault and worried no one would believe her story.
Myths of widespread false accusations persist, even though only between 2 and 10 percent of reports are false, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. And that only makes it harder for victims to come forward — particularly when they’re accusing the very officers who are charged with protecting them.
In 2018, McClain founded Silent No Longer TN to support other survivors. And she’s drawn on that experience, as well as her time investigating adult sex abuse as detective with MNPD, to dig into recent allegations against the police department.
“We’ve had several people come forward that are confirming these same accusations,” McClain said. “You know the old saying, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ There definitely seems to be some serious, serious issues within the department.”
McClain has shared her initial findings with both Mayor John Cooper and Police Chief Steve Anderson in five separate emails between April and July, which were provided to WPLN News.
The mayor’s office said in an email that it takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and says that an MNPD internal investigation is currently underway. But a spokesperson for the police department tells WPLN News they are waiting for McClain to provide more specifics before launching an investigation.
McClain said neither the chief nor the mayor have directly responded to her emails.
Patterns Emerge In Survey Results
Many of the officers’ complaints were lodged against Captain Jason Reinbold. The officer made headlines this spring after a viral video showed him yelling and cursing at a babysitter and three children who were having a picnic on a public bike path behind his home in Williamson County. Reinbold, who oversees other officers as a field supervisor, was suspended for 11 days without pay.
The first woman who approached McClain in mid-April said he’d sexually assaulted her, harassed her and retaliated when she complained. She said others had similar stories.
The police department spokesperson did not respond directly to allegations against Reinbold.
McClain’s team first conducted intake interviews. Then they shared a survey on social media, which more than 10 current and former MNPD employees have completed.
And though the responses highlighted a multitude of frustrations — from slow internal investigations to “blatant discrimination” against female officers — McClain said some answers surfaced again and again.
“The responses that we got from that survey showed patterns that were very disturbing,” she said. “One was that reports filed with [the Office of Professional Accountability], many of them have yet to be resolved, even after a year or more has passed. We also noticed that many of the same names continued to be mentioned repeatedly.”
According to these women, a handful of male supervisors have repeatedly harassed or assaulted female employees, with little or no punishment. In some cases, women said they had even been retaliated against for coming forward. One wrote in a survey response that her supervisors stopped sending backup when she asked for help in the field.
“I don’t think that anybody should have to go through the hell that I’ve been through,” said one woman on the Zoom call, who McClain referred to as Jane Roe. She spent years working up the courage to report a complaint. But nothing came of it.
“I know I’m not alone,” the woman said said. “But, I’m hoping that my story will bring some positive changes within the department.”
McClain said the consequences of allowing the behavior to continue could reach beyond the rank and file.
“The toxic culture of the Metro Nashville Police Department has got to stop,” she said. “Because, if they’re willing to do it to their own, what are they going to do to other people?”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.