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Ex-LMPD major loses ‘reverse discrimination’ lawsuit after saying racial slur during training

Ryan Van Velzer

A federal judge has thrown out a discrimination lawsuit brought by a white Louisville Metro Police Department officer who was demoted last year for using a racial epithet for Black people during a training class.

Aubrey Gregory, Jr. filed suit against the city last August, after he was demoted from the rank of major to lieutenant. Gregory claimed he was discriminated against because two Black people in the room also used the word and faced no consequences. While LMPD initially declined to say exactly what word he used in a training session for new recruits, Chief Erika Shields told Metro Council that it was the N-word.

Federal District Court Judge Claria Horn Bloom dismissed Gregory’s lawsuit late last month, saying the now-retired officer failed to prove “reverse discrimination.”

“Gregory has failed to cite to anything that suggests [Louisville officials] discriminate against the majority,” Bloom wrote.

The judge also pointed out other deficiencies in Gregory’s lawsuit: He failed to show that the other people who used the word answered to the same supervisors or were even LMPD employees, and Gregory failed to prove Louisville officials conspired to deprive him of his rights.

“The [lawsuit] does not even hint at, let alone mention, a conspiracy, or contain any allegations which could be construed in this manner,” Bloom said in her decision.

Gregory, who started with LMPD in 1999, said in his initial court filing that he entered a recruit class meeting on May 19, 2021, where a discussion about “-isms” was taking place, including racism, sexism, implicit bias and other topics. He alleged that two people, one “from Africa” and the other a retired Black firefighter, were discussing the derogatory word when he entered the room.

Gregory said the two men asked him to talk about his experience working in Louisville’s majority Black neighborhoods.

“At this point, [Gregory] said, ‘Yes, you are going to hear [the racial epithet] out there. Sometimes it does mean family or like a kinship of shared struggle, and sometimes it is the most derogatory, disgusting word you will hear; but you are going to hear it,” the filing stated.

Gregory argued he was discriminated against because the other two men did not face discipline. He said he met privately with Shields on June 1 and was given a letter of demotion on June 4.

Shields explained her reasoning for demoting Gregory at a Metro Council meeting last July.

“While this may not have been intentionally, harmfully directed at an individual, it was not acceptable for someone who was going to be on my command staff,” she said. “We simply have to exercise more prudent judgment on this if we are ever going to move this department forward.”

Gregory’s attorney Thomas Clay, a Louisville-based lawyer who frequently represents LMPD officers in lawsuits against their employer. Clay did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s unclear if they will appeal the court’s ruling.

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