A white Louisville Metro Police Department officer who was demoted for saying a racial epithet for Black people during a training session is now suing the city. He says he’s being discriminated against because two Black people in the room also used the word and faced no consequences.
Aubrey Gregory, Jr. was demoted from the position of major to lieutenant back in June and has since retired. While LMPD initially declined to say exactly what word Gregory used in a training session for new recruits, Chief Erika Shields told a Metro Council committee on July 20th that it was the n-word. Shields said she decided to demote Gregory after meeting with him and having discussions with Mayor Greg Fischer.
“While this may not have been intentionally, harmfully directed at an individual, it was not acceptable for someone who was going to be on my command staff,” Shields told Metro Council. “We simply have to exercise more prudent judgement on this if we are ever going to move this department forward.”
In the lawsuit filed Thursday, Gregory, who started with LMPD in 1999, gave a similar version of events.
He said he entered a recruit class meeting on May 19 where a discussion was taking place about “-isms,” including racism, sexism, implicit bias and other topics. The filing alleges that two people, one “from Africa” and a Black retired firefighter, were having a discussion about the derogatory word when Gregory entered the room.
“Both individuals were saying the word for the racial epithet,” Gregory contends in the filing.
The lawsuit says the two individuals told the class that “the word has multiple meanings; sometimes it means family or kinship, and sometimes it is offensive.” According to the lawsuit, the individuals then asked Gregory to discuss his experience working in Louisville’s historically Black neighborhoods.
“At this point, [Gregory] said, ‘Yes, you are going to hear [the racial epithet] out there. Sometimes it does mean family or like a kinship of shared struggle, and sometimes it is the most derogatory, disgusting word you will hear; but you are going to hear it,” the filing states.
Gregory said he was asked to meet with a representative from Louisville Metro Government Human Resources on May 24, and met privately with Shields on June 1. He said he was given a letter of demotion on June 4.
Gregory is being represented by Thomas Clay, a Louisville-based lawyer that frequently represents LMPD officers in lawsuits against their employer. They’re alleging that the demotion violated his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, because “no disciplinary action was taken against either African American individual who used the same racial epithet.”
He is also making similar claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Chapter 344 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, which prevent employers from unlawfully discriminating against an employee based on their race.
Gregory is asking the court to restore his rank of major and reward him damages for “loss of income, embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish.” He is also asking for punitive damages against the city for their conduct.
A spokesperson for LMPD said the department does not comment on pending litigation.