Rutherford County Sheriff’s Deputy Roscoe Sanders is suing the department for $2.5 million in damages after allegedly being denied a promotion on the grounds of racial discrimination in the summer of 2020.
The lawsuit was filed with U.S. District Court for the Middle of Tennessee in Nashville.
According to the lawsuit, the deputy has applied at least 15 times to become a sergeant, a process that would require the sheriff’s department to follow its own “standard operating procedure” in interviewing and eventual promotion. Sanders alleges the county eliminated all African American applicants, including himself, from the selection pool, leaving only white candidates remaining.
From there, an all-white committee made its selection. The lawsuit claims there are no African American captains or chiefs in the sheriff’s department.
A Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson declined to comment about the current, previous makeup of the selection committee or its evaluation methods used in promotional processes, citing the pending litigation.
Sanders, who has been employed with the county since 2006, said in the lawsuit that he feels qualified to take on the sergeant’s responsibilities, given his long-standing tenure as both a deputy and school resource officer.
The lawsuit states that he had previously “outperformed” the selected individual in other promotion processes, being the only candidate to score in the top five of the interview process.
The deputy who was promoted had not previously been considered a “top candidate,” according to the lawsuit.
Sanders also alleges that an unspecified “chief” had referred to him using derogatory language, calling him a “dumb (expletive) (racial epithet)” who should’ve been let go when “they had the chance.”
The deputy has no history of disciplinary action, according to the lawsuit, which claims the department has a history of not promoting African American employees beyond a certain level of authority.
Constance Mann, the Franklin-based attorney representing Sanders, was not available to verify the source of the numerical data included in the legal document, which claims that only 16 black employees had been promoted in comparison to 115 white employees starting Jan. 12, 2017.
The lawsuit also says there is a lack of diversity within the department, stating that there are only three black SROs out of 50 who are currently employed, as well as one lieutenant and three sergeants.
Sanders also is requesting a jury trial, court costs and legal fees.