Jervis Middleton

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky police officer has been fired for giving information about the police agency he worked for to Black Lives Matter protesters.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council announced its unanimous decision early Friday after a nine-hour hearing and more than two hours of deliberations, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.

Jervis Middleton, who is Black, argued that he shouldn't be terminated from the Lexington Police Department because the information he provided was covered by free speech and did not jeopardize the safety of officers. His lawyers said he faced racial discrimination at the agency and was frustrated because his concerns about racism hadn't been addressed.

The council's decision followed the recommendation of Police Chief Lawrence Weathers, who is also Black, and an internal police disciplinary board.

Middleton was accused of misconduct, sharing internal police information with Black Lives Matter protest leader Sarah Williams and being dishonest about his communication with her. The council dismissed the last charge, but found him guilty of the first two.

Weathers testified Middleton should be fired because he put his fellow officers in jeopardy during summer protests and because he had been demoted recently due to an unrelated complaint.

“I felt like the discipline he received last time should have been a message to him and allow him to come back and become the officer that I know he can be. After this, I just can’t see him coming back,” Weathers said.

He said race didn't factor into the recommendation to dismiss Middleton.

Lawyers for Middleton argued that the information he provided did not give protesters any insight into police tactics and did not compromise any operations.

“The only harm is imagined harm,” attorney Keith Sparks said.

The defense focused on Middleton’s frustration with what he saw as ongoing racial discrimination in the police force.

When asked if he understood Middleton’s frustration, Weathers said yes but “that did not justify what he did.”

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