Fired deputy sues department for racial discrimination

WHITLEY COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — A former deputy with the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department has filed a lawsuit against the law enforcement agency citing two incidents where he was discriminated against. The lawsuit claims the former deputy was “singled out from all others based solely upon his race and color.”

The lawsuit was filed at United States District Court Northern District of Indiana  on Friday. Terrance S. McKinney, 29, claims that the sheriff’s department discriminated against him based on his race, which resulted in his termination.

McKinney alleges that following a racial slur, he was isolated from the rest of the department and never received any meaningful training. He brought concerns to the sheriff on multiple occasions, but never received further training or work-related duties.

McKinney worked for the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department from August of 2013 to May of 2014. Court documents indicate that he was fired based on three incidents:

  • Violation of policy for submitting false work hours in his employee’s service record while attending an Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Plainfield, Indiana
  • Failing to submit a monthly report while at the ILEA.
  • Improper use of a company gas card while traveling to and from the ILEA in his county cruiser.

The ILEA is required training. McKinney believes there is no basis for any of the violations.

Another incident described in the court documents, indicates that a month before McKinney started working at the sheriff’s department, he was unlawfully pulled over and searched.

In late July of 2013, McKinney was driving with his 5-year-old son with a new refrigerator strapped in the back of the truck.  McKinney was stopped by a Whitley County deputy, Tony Helfrich. Court documents report that McKinney was, “ordered out of the vehicle at gunpoint, ordered to lay face down in the road and handcuffed under suspicion of stealing and or receiving stolen property.”

Court documents state, “[Helfirch] did not have a warrant and did not have probable cause to believe that [McKinney] committed a felony or misdemeanor.”

NewsChannel 15 has contacted the Whitely County Sheriff’s Department for a response to the lawsuit. However, all administration was out of the office on Friday.

Following his termination, McKinney filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit states that the EEOC issued a “Notice of Dismissal and Notice or Rights.” According to the EEOC’s website, that means the agency determined there was no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, but there’s a right to file a lawsuit in federal court.

The civil suit filed on Friday came as a surprise to George Schrumpf, Chairman of the Whitley County Commissioners. Schrumpf told NewsChannel 15 he thought McKinney’s concerns were resolved following the EEOC report.

McKinney is seeking damages. He wants to be reinstated, collect lost wages and benefits, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

In 2011, McKinney was honored as the Indiana Soldier of the Year for his involvement with the National Guard.

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