Lawsuits target Tupelo’s police training academy

TUPELO – Two former Tupelo police academy cadets have filed lawsuits against the city for racial discrimination and claim blacks rarely pass the 10-week course.
Byrant Stubbs and Latana Williams filed separate suits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. Both are represented by Tupelo attorney Jim Waide, and both seek monetary damages.
Williams filed her case in April; Stubbs filed his in November. Both had attended the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center in 2008. Since then, each one has graduated from other academies in the state.
City attorney John Hill said the claims lack merit, and while both involve the police academy, he called them “dissimilar.”
Williams couldn’t pass the firearms and driving portions of the academy, which is why she didn’t complete training, Hill said. Stubbs left voluntarily after one day.
But Stubbs said he feared for his safety after being singled out and harassed at the academy. He claims it was because of his race and because his father made allegations against the city during a controversial ethics investigation.
The Mississippi Board on Law Enforcement Officer Standards had reviewed those allegations last year and cleared the city of wrongdoing.
And Williams’ complaint alleges she did pass the tests.
The city made “false claims that the reason for (Williams) discharge was unsatisfactory performance on the driving and firearms test,” the complaint states. “In fact, the (city) did not want a black female police officer and used the driving and firearms testing as a pretext for the firing.”
Williams also alleges “very few blacks have succeeded in becoming Tupelo police officers, and those few who have succeeded in doing so had such outstanding qualifications any decision to reject them could not be defended.”
A spokesman for the police academy did not immediately have enrollment and graduation statistics for the Daily Journal.
But previous statistics from the police department showed that, as of August, nearly 17 percent of the 114 sworn officers on the city force were minorities. Of them, 33 percent held supervisory positions.
And in the past year, minorities accounted for 11 percent of the 163 people seeking employment with the police department. It’s unclear how many went through the city’s academy versus one of the others in the state or nation.
According to the Mississippi Board on Law Enforcement Officer Standards, the Tupelo academy held two classes in fiscal year 2008 and two in fiscal year 2009. During that time, 77 cadets began training, 54 completed training.
No race or gender data was provided.
“Many cadets,” said MBLEOS Director Robert Davis, “resign for personal reasons.”

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal