A female Decatur police officer who was fired after being charged and acquitted of assaulting a woman is scheduled to go to trial against the city on sex discrimination claims in February.
Brandi Leigh Reed, 30, alleged in her federal complaint that she had been discriminated against at various times since she began working at the Decatur Police Department in May 2013, and that she was treated more harshly than male officers in similar situations when she was terminated by Mayor Tab Bowling in January 2019.
The main incident leading to Reed’s termination, which was upheld by the Decatur Personnel Board, took place May 22, 2018, and led to misdemeanor charges being filed against Reed and fellow Decatur police Officer Zachary Charles Blanton.
The two were at Blanton's home in Hartselle while his wife was not present. Blanton’s sister-in-law Hailey Lamar testified at the trial that resulted in their acquittal that she entered the home at about 6:30 a.m. She said she was there to get Blanton's children ready for school. She said Blanton and Reed were in the master bedroom with the door shut, and she heard sounds indicating they were having sex.
A fight ensued.
LaMar testified Reed hit her above the eye with a picture frame. Reed said LaMar was pulling her hair and she punched LaMar to escape, causing LaMar's injury. All three testified LaMar pulled a hunk of hair from Reed's head.
Both Blanton and Reed testified at the misdemeanor trial that LaMar was "out of control" and threatened to kill them, and all three agreed Blanton told LaMar to leave his home.
Reed appealed her termination to the Decatur Personnel Board. At the board hearing in July 2019, the city argued past conduct also contributed to Reed’s termination. That conduct included, according to the city, driving 100 mph in her police vehicle without her warning lights, unnecessary conflict with a Morgan County inmate, failing to arrest a suspect on a felony robbery charge, and smoking a cigarette in front of a suspect’s home while waiting on officers to conduct a raid.
Reed told the Personnel Board she was sleeping alone in Blanton’s master bedroom, and she denied any physical relationship.
Blanton resigned from the department.
Reed filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in July 2019, which notified her of her right to sue the city in January 2020. She filed suit in April 2020. The city responded by seeking dismissal of the lawsuit.
The court threw out some of her claims but scheduled for trial her claims of gender discrimination against the city, including a claim for lost wages.
Reed was placed on administrative duty at the Decatur Police Department after being charged in connection with the Hartselle altercation. In her amended discrimination complaint, filed with the court in August, she alleged she initially was denied the use of her newer patrol vehicle and her computer even though Blanton, also on administrative duty, kept his patrol car and computer. She said after she complained to supervisors, the patrol car and computer were returned to her.
She also alleges male officers who had been arrested were not terminated. The city responded “that the circumstances of those officers were completely different than those of plaintiff.”
Reed alleged the discrimination predated the Hartselle incident.
In May 2013, she alleged, a Decatur police supervisor told her that while the location of Reed’s patrol car was constantly monitored through GPS by senior officers, male patrol officers were not subjected to the same scrutiny. She also said she was denied requests she made in 2013 for geographical zones she preferred to cover, while male officers were not.
She also was denied work in a specialized unit in 2014, she alleged, and she was told by her immediate supervisor the denial was “because she was a female.” She claims that in 2016 her work in the Narcotics Division of the department was limited, and her supervisors told her “they viewed her as a … ’daughter figure’ and that was why she was receiving differential treatment.”
The city of Decatur denied her allegations.