Mississippi police chief sued by former detective. Suit alleges ‘illegal activity’ by police chief over Black Lives Matter protests.
Published 2:18 pm Friday, August 5, 2022
A former detective with the Brookhaven Police Department is suing the city and Police Chief Kenneth Collins for wrongful termination “based on illegal activity by the Brookhaven Chief of Police.”
The suit, filed July 29 in federal court by Latoya R. Beacham, alleges she was forced to leave the Brookhaven Police Department when Collins demoted her from detective to a patrol position after the Board of Alderman failed to approve Collins’ request to terminate her employment for refusing to sign affidavits against protestors without probable cause.
According to court documents, the issue stems from Collins’ actions that began in January and February, when various protests were being held in support of D’Monterrio Gibson, a black FedEx driver whose truck was shot at by two white men, Greg Case and Brandon Case. Both have been charged with assault.
“The individuals who conducted the shooting are relatives of the Assistant Chief of Police, who is a close friend and associate of the Chief of Police,” the lawsuit states. “Collins was opposed to the protests and wanted any member of the Black Lives Matter who participated in a protest to be arrested. Chief Collins directed patrolmen to arrest members of Black Lives Matter (and Beacham) as a detective, to sign a criminal affidavit charging Black Lives Matter members with crimes.”
The suit goes on to say, “(Beacham) was not present to witness any alleged crimes … (and) was unaware of any evidence which showed any members of Black Lives Matter committing any crimes.”
The suit claims Collins directed Beacham to sign “baseless criminal affidavits, even though there was no probable cause” because the chief sought to “punish members of Black Lives Matter for exercising their First Amendment speech … for protesting the race-based shooting.”
According to court documents, Beacham was “frustrated about being unconstitutionally illegally ordered by the police chief” to sign the affidavits and confided in her pastor about being asked to carry out “this illegal activity.”
“Without her knowledge, the pastor had (Beacham) on speaker phone … (and her) speech was heard by another individual who taped the conversation and posted it on social media,” leading to Collins’ discovery of her comments.
“Accordingly, on March 25, 2022, Collins informed (Beacham) that she was suspended and that he was asking the Board of Aldermen to terminate her for insubordination,” the suit states. “At a board meeting on April 5, 2022, the governing board of the Brookhaven Police Department declined to fire (Beacham) when she had done nothing wrong and ordered her reinstated.”
The suit claims Collins “was unwilling to accept the decision of the board” and ordered Beacham demoted to a patrol position, “which was a much less desirable position because it required (Beacham) to work nights” and “frustrated (her) lifetime goal of being a police detective.”
She also was enrolled in the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy receiving special certification to work as an investigator. The suit claims Collins, through a police captain, attempted unsuccessfully to have her removed from the program.
The suit alleges Collins “entertained hostility” towards Beacham and “made it clear to (her) that she would not be returning to a detective position … therefore being constructively discharged from her employment.”
Beacham resigned and is now working with the McComb Police Department.
The suit seeks damages for lost wages, mental anxiety and stress against both the city and the police chief, as well as punitive damages against Collins. Beacham also seeks to be reinstated to her detective position.
Attempts to reach Collins and Mayor Joe Cox were unsuccessful on Friday.