Former Pine Bluff Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones claimed in a federal lawsuit filed May 31 that she was discriminated against because of her race and sex, and in retaliation for having opposed discriminatory practices.
The lawsuit, filed by Little Rock attorney Austin Porter Jr., names the city of Pine Bluff and Mayor Debe Hollingsworth in both her individual and official capacities.
Davis-Jones, who filed the lawsuit as Brenda M. Jones, is seeking reinstatement, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs, and an injunction preventing the city from any further discrimination.
Davis-Jones was hired by former Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr., on or about June 30, 2010, and according to the court filing, “instituted several changes within the department that resulted in a more efficient police department.”
It said Davis-Jones was able to hire more officers and put more officers on the street by “writing grants such as the Vet to Cop grant which allowed the hiring of four more officers.”
The court filing said Davis-Jones “also took actions to save the COP Grant, which allowed the hiring of sex (SIC) additional police officers.”
It said that during the time Davis-Jones was Chief of Police, the department sent 19 officers to the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy “which represents the most officers sent for training in the history of the Pine Bluff Police Department.
“Furthermore, during the plaintiff’s (Davis-Jones) tenure as Chief of Police, the number of African-American police officers increased significantly to the point that at the time of the plaintiff’s termination, the department was 52 percent Caucasian and 48 percent African-American,” the court filing said.
It also said the percentage of white officers decreased from 75 percent to 52 percent while Davis-Jones was chief, “which caused animosity and racial resentment amongst some of the white officers employed by the Pine Bluff Police Department, chiefly amongst Chris Powell, who served as President of the Police Officers Benevolent Association.”
The lawsuit said Powell “joined the campaign of Debe Hollingsworth,” who was one of nine candidates, including Redus, who were running for Mayor during the 2012 campaign.
Hollingsworth defeated the other candidates without a run-off, and according to the lawsuit, “one of her first official acts” was to fire Davis-Jones, “much to the appeasement of many of the white police officers employed by the Pine Bluff Police Department, and much to the satisfaction of Chris Powell.
“Mayor Hollingsworth said in her termination letter that she wanted to take the city ‘in a different direction,’” the lawsuit said.
Powell was fired by in May by a Civilian Review Panel after they determined that he had been guilty of sexually harassing a female trainee that was riding with him.
The lawsuit said Hollingsworth replaced Davis-Jones with Jeff Hubanks, a white male “who is less qualified,” because Davis-Jones holds a Bachelor’s Degree while Hubanks does not, and Davis-Jones had more experience as Chief of P0lice than Hubanks.
Davis-Jones filed a discrimination charge against the city with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Feb. 27, and on March 6, received a notice from the EEOC that the agency was closing its file after being A”unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.”
The EEOC response also gave Davis-Jones the right to file a lawsuit in either state or federal court within 90 days.
City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott said late Monday afternoon that the mayor has not been served with a copy of the lawsuit and she did not know anything about it.
Hadden-Scott said she also had not received anything from the attorney for Davis-Jones, and said she checked with Hollingsworth’s administrative assistant, Evelyn Horton, who had not received any legal paperwork.
Hollingsworth did not return a phone call seeking comment.