Brackney sues the city of Charlottesville, other parties

Former Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney has filed a lawsuit in federal court against multiple parties alleging that, among other things, the city of Charlottesville acted unlawfully when former City Manager Chip Boyles fired her last September 1. She’s seeking ten million dollar in damages. (read the suit and its exhibits)

In addition to Boyles, Brackney’s complaint in the Western District of Virginia also includes: former city Communications Director Brian Wheeler; city attorney Lisa Robertson; acting police chief Latroy “Tito” Durrette; former assistant police chief James Mooney; current Councilors Sena Magill and Lloyd Snook, former Councilor Heather Hill, and former Police Civilian Review Board chair Bellamy Brown. 

She also named Mike Wells of the Police Benevolent Association as a defendant. 

(Read the suit and its exhibits)

The suit builds on a claim filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission soon after she was fired by Boyles. In a series of facts, the complaint seeks to establish that Brackney was hired in June 2018 to “bring empathy, community-oriented training, and years of law enforcement methodology to the table” following distrust after two specific incidents in the summer of 2017. 

“As Chief of Police, Dr. Brackney’s priority was to stabilize [Charlottesville Police Department] by building rapport with its employees, whilst simultaneously empowering them to challenge their personal assumptions, regarding policing in the 21st Century,”  reads paragraph 31. 

As part of that work, Brackney collected data on all divisions of the Police Department and according to the complaint concluded that members of several of them including the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team were not up to the task. 

“Assignments were not based on strengths, but decades-old, archaic practices such as nepotism, favoritism, genderism, and racism,” reads paragraph 36. 

The complaint describes Brackney’s attempts to reform, such as converting four positions to civilians rather than sworn in officers. One of these was the public information officer. More trainings sessions were to be held, as well as taking minutes at department meetings.

“These actions angered those who resented having a Black female at the helm of a police department, particularly one in the South with a conservative undercurrent,” reads paragraph 47. 

On June 3, 2021, Brackney received an email and video from a community member claiming police conduct by a specific officer and she took action on the complaint. That action included dismantling the SWAT team and firing or suspending officers she found to be involved through a subsequent investigation. 

In paragraph 61, the complaint states that Bellamy Brown and Mike Wells in early August put together a survey for Charlottesville police officers that Brackney claims was “intentionally negatively worded and targeting Plaintiff as a result of the investigation and disciplinary actions described above.” 

Paragraph 66 alleges a conspiracy between Brown, Hill, Wells, Snook, Boyles, Mooney and Magill to out Brackney as chief. The next one states that Boyles expressed confidence in Brackney’s leadership on August 26, 2021, as evidenced in a secret audio recording she made of their meeting. 

Brackney was fired on September 1 and paragraph 76 of the complaint quotes Boyle’s September 3 press release in the first of many iterations used to advance her complaint. 

“In order to dismantle systemic racism and eliminate police violence and misconduct in Charlottesville, we need a leader who is not only knowledgeable in that work, but is also effective in building collaborative relationships with the community, the department, and the team at City Hall… and [w]hile very good work and progress has been made, I ultimately decided new leadership was required to continue the City’s progress towards building a new climate and culture within the department,” Boyles wrote. 

The complaint continues to list specific incidents that Brackney considers libel. Paragraph 89 accuses Roberston and Boyles of falsifying documents, and offers that Brackney has secret recordings. 

Brackney seeks a trial by jury for all of the counts, including one alleging “tortious interference with employment contract.” Another claims unlawful retaliation and another claims that Brackney acted as a whistleblower and another alleges defamation and another claiming business conspiracy that involves Wells, Brown, and the named City Councilors.  

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the June 17, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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