Dr. Davin Clemons on his experience in the Memphis Police Department, his federal lawsuit against the department and his current role at the MPD. USA TODAY
In some cases, officers were able to survive the public scrutiny that comes with suing their police department — and even continue advocating for LGBT people.
Check out this video on USA TODAY: https://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/2019/02/07/memphis-police-lgbtq-liaison-speaks-out/2801981002/
Officer Davin Clemons filed suit in 2016 for the sexual orientation discrimination he says he endured at the Memphis Police Department in Tennessee.
When he got engaged, Clemons said his colleagues mocked him. No one ever showered in the police department’s bathroom while he did, Clemons said, because he is gay.
Supervisors allegedly expressed displeasure about the attention Clemons brought to the unit as department LGBTQ liaison. They held him to a different standard, including assigning him mandatory overtime and unfairly disciplining him for a driving accident in inclement weather, his lawsuit alleges.
His close-knit, elite law enforcement unit prized hypermasculinity, A-type personalities and conformity, Clemons said. And as a black, gay man with groomed eyebrows and manicured fingernails, he was different.
“Anybody who doesn’t fit is an outsider,” Clemons said.
Clemons filed internal complaints, charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and eventually his lawsuit citing Memphis’s 2014 anti-discrimination ordinance. The city denied his claims and began settling in 2017, agreeing to increase LGBT sensitivity training. The Memphis Police Department declined to comment on Clemons’ lawsuit.
The police department has actively participated since 2016 in the city’s efforts to make Memphis a more inclusive workplace, said Alexandria Smith, the city’s chief human resources officer. Today, Memphis has a LGBTQ employee resource group and also recruits officers at Pride fairs.
Memphis police officer and LGBTQ liaison for the department, Dr. Davin D. Clemons, who sued for discrimination against the MPD in 2014, chats with attendees during his Memphis City Council run kickoff party in downtown Memphis, Tenn. on Jan. 31, 2019. (Photo: Joe Rondone, The Commercial Appeal via USA TODAY NETWORK)
“We really want to open our doors to a variety of individuals to come and work for us,” Smith said.
Clemons said that while the lawsuit put stress on everyone involved, he believes suing ended the homophobic harassment and improved his workplace environment. He did not take a leave of absence during the litigation. Months after settling, he transferred to the training academy. He kept his role as LGBTQ community liaison and is running for City Council.