By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Tupelo’s insurance carrier ended a police race and gender-bias trial Tuesday before federal court even started.
The city agreed to pay Grenada Police Officer Latana Williams $130,000 to walk away from her 2009 lawsuit.
Williams was removed from Tupelo’s Police Academy in 2008 after police officials claimed the U.S. Army veteran performed poorly in firearms and driving courses.
The only black female in the class, the Calhoun County native said she passed but was graded as failed because the officials did not want a black female police officer.
“This is a business decision,” said Tupelo’s attorney, John Hill, in the U.S. District Courthouse after the settlement agreement.
“We do not believe officers intended to discriminate against Ms. Williams but were acting in what they thought were the best interests of the city of Tupelo.”
Outside the courthouse, Williams’ attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, said he’s sorry the city and its residents ultimately were deprived of Williams’ services.
She later completed academy training in Pearl and went to work for the city of Grenada.
Waide agreed with Hill, to some degree, saying he believed her training officers were not the problem, rather certain police higher-ups, who didn’t want Williams on the force.
“I’m glad to get it behind me,” Williams said. “It puts me in a position to grow.”
The case came back to the North Mississippi court after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said several issues of fact were sufficient to put before a jury, reversing Judge Sharion Aycock’s decision to find in favor of Tupelo.
The settlement includes attorneys fees and court costs.