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Charlottesville city leaders move to toss out former police chief’s wrongful termination suit

ormer Charlottesville police chief RaShall Brackney speaks
Andrew Harnik/AP
Former Charlottesville police chief RaShall Brackney speaks at a September 2019 House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons in Washington. Brackney was fired by Charlottesville's then-city manager in 2021. (File photo: Andrew Harnik/VPM News)

Charlottesville city officials are asking a court to dismiss a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against them by former Police Chief RaShall Brackney.  

In a motion filed Tuesday, city leaders said the city manager decided to fire Brackney due to “chaos and upheaval” in the police department, not discrimination or retaliation, which Brackney alleged in the suit. 

Charlottesville hired Brackney in 2018 to restore trust in the police department after its bungled response to the August 2017 Unite the Right rally. She was the first Black, female police chief in the city’s history — and she moved quickly to shake up the department by disciplining problem officers, among other reforms.

But Chip Boyles, the city manager at the time, fired her without cause last September, citing a lack of effective leadership.  

“My leadership was never called into question until I started taking affirmative steps and actions to terminate six white males,” Brackney said last week on MSNBC’s “The Cross Connection with Tiffany Cross.” “Particularly, [men] who were involved in very racist, misogynistic, homophobic behaviors, violent behaviors.” 

Brackney sued the city this past June, accusing city leaders of conspiring to fire her for trying to address racial inequality, nepotism and other issues within the department.  

In its motion, however, the city alleged Brackney’s firing was not related to her decision to discipline officers. In fact, it said the city supported Brackney’s disciplinary actions.  

“The City Manager’s decision to terminate Brackney was a result of chaos and upheaval in the Charlottesville Police Department (“CPD”), the imminent threat of departures of important CPD leaders, and the ongoing strained relationship between Brackney, City leadership, and community stakeholders,” the motion says. 

Boyles, who resigned in October, said the loss of leaders would “cripple the CPD’s ability to function.” 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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