Two sheriff’s deputies in Wake County, N.C., say they were fired in retaliation for reporting homophobic, transphobic comments by a colleague – and that colleague has now been promoted.
The fired officers, Gray Speight and Steven Williamson, who both held the rank of master deputy, said that in a diversity training session in 2017, Lt. Teddy Patrick said that if he were called to a home where a man was wearing a dress, he wouldn’t go into the house, Raleigh TV station WRAL reports. Patrick also said he did not like gay people but could work with them.
“It was very unprofessional being that he was a lieutenant and a teacher,” Williamson told the station. Speight added, “"He was making statements that were just inappropriate.” They also said Patrick outed a gay deputy in the class.
Notes from an internal sheriff’s department investigation showed that in another training session, Patrick told an Asian employee “that he bet she was good with chopsticks,” WRAL reports.
The notes indicate that Patrick admitted making the statements. Sheriff Donnie Harrison demoted him from lieutenant to senior investigator.
But Harrison lost the sheriff’s race in the November election, and the new sheriff, Gerald Baker, fired Speight and Williamson December 22. They said they believe the action was retaliation for telling the truth about Patrick’s comments. Baker also fired or demoted several other deputies from Harrison’s administration but promoted Patrick to captain, one of the highest ranks in the department.
WRAL sought comment from Baker and Patrick, who issued the following statement: “The training sessions you refer to resulted in action being taken by the former administration. Captain Patrick was promoted to his present position after a thorough review of his work history, including the training session comments and their context and purpose. Personnel changes, whether they are reassignments, demotions or terminations, can be difficult. The changes that have been made, and will continue to be made, will be done to provide a fair and inclusive environment for all employees of this office.”
Speight and Williamson said they don’t regret bringing Patrick’s comments to light. “I did the right thing,” Speight told the TV station” “Would I do it again? Yes.”
Watch the WRAL report below.