A police officer in Lexington, Kentucky was fired on February 19 after allegations surfaced that he sent fellow officers' private information to Black Lives Matter organizers during last years protests.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council unanimously voted to terminate Lexington Police Officer Jervis Middleton, finding him guilty on two of three counts of violating operational rules, local reports stated.
"Officer Middleton’s conduct during a highly stressful and potentially vulnerable time during the history of our community—the most significant policing event in our community in 20 years—demonstrates that he should no longer be a police officer," said lawyer Keith Horn to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Officer Jervis Middleton fought back against the council’s vote claiming his termination was in violation of his first amendment rights and although he released private information, he was exercising freedom of speech and acknowledged that no officers safety was jeopardized.
Officer Middleton’s termination garnered attention from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after Middleton, who is black, claimed the Lexington Police Department had a history of racial discrimination—where Middleton was often the subject of racial taunts.
"The ACLU of Kentucky is concerned (the) Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council fired Officer Jervis Middleton amidst longstanding calls for a radical transformation of policing and transparent relationships with the public," said Executive Director Michael Aldridge in a statement to Kentucky.com.
"While Officer Middleton’s actions may warrant some level of disciplinary action, it is particularly concerning he 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."
According to the Herald-Leader, Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers said that the allegations against Middleton were brought to the police disciplinary board where they recommended his termination.
This was not the first time Middleton inappropriately used police resources.
The Herald-Leader reported that Officer Middleton was previously reprimanded after looking up private information about a woman he used to be involved with.
"I felt like the discipline he received last time should have been a message to him and allow him to come back and become the officer that I know he can be," Weathers said. "After this, I just can’t see him coming back. To me, it was a violation of trust and a violation of the position of a police officer. He was supposed to protect the public but he should also protect his fellow officers."
A report was released after an investigation was conducted into the allegations against Officer Middleton and his involvement in leaking officers private information to Black Lives Matter activists.
Investigators found that Officer Middleton provided Black Lives Matter organizer Sarah Williams with "copies of sensitive 'law enforcement only' communications, including emails and text messages which outlined staffing, operational, and deployment plans."
Investigators reviewed conversations between the two which indicated Officer Middleton encouraged Williams to call out certain 'racist' during their protests. "There were also incidents where Officer Middleton actively encouraged Ms. Williams to curse out and use the personal information he provided in a manner to embarrass the officers involved."
Officer Middleton's termination is currently under review by the ACLU.