Posted on February 24, 2021

Lexington Council Fires Officer for Sending Information on Cops to BLM Protesters

Beth Musgrave, Lexington Herald Leader, February 18, 2021

The Lexington council fired a police officer accused of leaking information about other officers to Black Lives Matter protesters, and the Kentucky ACLU sharply criticized the dismissal.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council announced its decision shortly after 1 a.m. Friday after a nine-hour police hearing and more than two hours of closed-door deliberations.


Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers and an internal police disciplinary board recommended officer Jervis Middleton be fired for violating several department policies for providing information — including details about officers working during the protest — to Black Lives Matter protest leader Sarah Williams, a friend of Middleton’s.

Middleton was accused of overall misconduct, sharing internal police information and for being dishonest about his communication with Williams. The council found him guilty of the first two administrative charges but not guilty of the third charge. The council’s vote was unanimous.

Middleton challenged his termination, saying the information he provided Williams did not jeopardize officers’ safety and was free speech. During Thursday’s hearing, lawyers for Middleton, who is Black, said Middleton has faced repeated racial taunts and discrimination from fellow officers and was frustrated because nothing had been done to address his longstanding concerns about racism in the department. Middleton was also frustrated about the repeated killings of Black Americans by police officers.


Keith Horn, a lawyer for the city, said during opening arguments that Middleton told Williams what to say to some officers during protests in May and June and sent her some staffing information, including that police were looking for officers to work overtime to work the protests.


“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,” Horn said.

Chief Weathers testified Middleton should be fired because he put his fellow officers in jeopardy during the protests, which went on for 59 nights during the summer.

“The allegations against Officer Middleton is that he provided information that could be used to insult, intimidate and harass our officers while they were working the protests,” Weathers said. Officers who were called out by name by those protesters were removed from their duty posts, Weathers said.


Weathers also said he agreed with the internal disciplinary board’s dismissal recommendation because Middleton had recently been demoted and had a prior formal complaint against him.

“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. 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.”

Weathers, who is Black, said race was not a factor in the recommendation to dismiss Middleton.

Lt. David Biroschick of the public integrity unit, which investigates complaints against officers, testified Thursday that Middleton at first lied to investigators about providing the information to Williams. When confronted with evidence of the communication, he finally admitted it.

Police testified Thursday that Middleton shared a screenshot of a notice that the department’s emergency response unit, or its tactical or SWAT team, would be called out to help with the protest. The other information shared with Williams was an email asking if officers wanted to work the protests.


Keith Sparks, one of Middleton’s lawyers, said Middleton did not incite violence, nor did he give Williams information that would have compromised police operations.


Williams, who testified during Thursday’s hearing, said firing a Black officer for speaking with Black Lives Matter protesters will set back police accountability years. White officers who have physically harmed people have been allowed to remain on the police force.


Much of the defense’s argument centered on Middleton’s frustration with what he saw as racial discrimination within the department.

A fellow officer once told Middleton to “turn your black a– face around.” Sparks said Middleton told Biroschick in the public integrity unit, but nothing happened, he said.


Biroschick testified Thursday that Middleton didn’t tell him about the incident, but he heard about it from another officer. Biroschick said because no one filed a formal complaint, it was not investigated.


Fellow officers also created at least five memes featuring Middleton, which made it appear that Middleton was a threat to white women. {snip}

During Thursday’s testimony, officers said Middleton had also shared an inappropriate meme of another officer to Facebook prior to the memes of Middleton being circulated.


This is not the first disciplinary action Middleton has faced.

Middleton was acquitted of official misconduct in February 2019 by a Fayette District Court jury after he was accused of using police computers to get information about a woman who had accused him of stalking and spying on her after their sexual relationship ended.

Middleton also faced internal disciplinary action over the incident. Middleton and the city eventually reached an agreement in October 2019 that demoted Middleton from sergeant to officer. That agreement was reached hours before a public disciplinary hearing was set to begin.

Documents from that disciplinary case showed that Middleton was accused of asking officers to drive by and run license plate numbers of cars at the home of the woman with whom he once had a relationship.

Middleton has been an officer since 2007 and once served as a police spokesperson.