Lambda Legal Discrimination Case Resolved: Johnson City Police Department Updates Policies and Adds Training
(Johnson City, Tennessee, January 25, 2010) - Today Lambda Legal announces the resolution of a lawsuit against the Johnson City Police Department in Tennessee, on behalf of Kenneth Giles whose photo was made available to the media, contrary to the Department's usual practices.
"We applaud Chief Lowry's decision to use this dispute to examine, clarify, and update the police department's policies, practices, and training programs," said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "We believe these actions will not only help avoid future disputes like this one, but also lay the groundwork for improved relations between the police department and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Johnson City. These measures show a commitment to treating all people equally. This is a win-win situation for everyone."
On October 1, 2007, the Department issued a press release that included photos of 40 men arrested in a public sex sting operation. The local news ran the story prominently along with pictures and addresses of the men involved. Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit asserting that it is improper and discriminatory to single out certain groups of people for increased public attention by publicizing their arrest photographs. Lambda Legal reviewed hundreds of news releases issued by the JCPD in the year leading up to the October 1, 2007 release and found that no other release pertaining to arrests was accompanied by photos. Mr. Giles attributed the loss of his job to the enhanced publicity surrounding his arrest.
Johnson City Police Chief John Lowry denied any discriminatory motive, stating that the JCPD's media efforts related to the sting operation served the rational goal of dissuading others from illegal conduct. Even so, Chief Lowry stated that, irrespective of his views on the merits of the lawsuit, both his Department and residents of Johnson City are best served by the Department's adopting a nondiscrimination policy that conforms to the guarantees of equal protection in the U.S. Constitution and updating the JCPD media policy to address the release of arrestee photographs. Chief Lowry announced a program to train JCPD officers on the policies and to recognize and avoid conduct that would violate those guarantees. The training will also be aimed at improving the interactions between the JCPD and members of minority groups, including but not limited to persons whose sexual orientation is other than heterosexual, while the officers carry out their duties in the community.
Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office, handled the case, along with cooperating attorneys John T. Winemiller of Merchant & Gould; and Lisa A. Linsky, Jill Basinger, Molly Logan and Brian Tiemann of McDermott, Will & Emery.
The case is Giles v. City of Johnson City, et al.
Contact: Jonathan Adams 212-809-8585 ext 267; [email protected]
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.