In a small town police force, one officer is going through some serious emotional issues. His former girlfriend and mother of their child is seeing a senior officer on the same small police force. In March, 2018, the chief of the police force referred Office Michael Grelle to a clinical psychologist for an evaluation. The chief mentioned that Officer Grelle had said he could not control his emotions. The young officer had handled various calls in a haphazard way, said the chief. The officer had cried during a meeting with his supervisors. On March 21, 2018, the psychologist found that Grelle could continue to perform his duties, if he obtained counseling. Yet, on April 3, the chief started an investigation concerning a remark made by Grelle in 2017. On April 17, 2018, the chief submitted Officer Grelle for termination.
In the case of Grelle v. City of Windcrest, No. SA-19-CV-00125-XR, 2021 WL 1910783 (W.D. Tex. May 12, 2021), Officer Grelle sued for discrimination based on his ethnic origin (white) and for ADA “regarded as” discrimination. The City moved for summary judgment. The Western District denied the motion. Regarding the ethnic origins claim, the court noted that the city claimed it fired Grelle solely because during an arrest, he asked to remove a bandage from a suspect before taking him to jail. Officer Grelle did not want the Magistrate to become alarmed at seeing a bandaged prisoner. The request to remove the bandage was approved by three supervisors at the scene of the arrest.
Yet, the City claimed Officer Grelle violated requirements of honesty in removing the bandage. It did not help the City’s case that a lieutenant claimed he withdrew his permission to remove the bandage after that discussion at the scene of the arrest. The body cam video from Officer Grelle clearly showed the three supervisors approving the bandage removal. Yet, the lieutenant claimed later after that discussion, he withdrew his permission. The court did not accuse the lieutenant of lying, but that change in his testimony had to hurt his credibility. Too, noted the court, in the termination documents, little mention is made of this supposed breach of honesty by Officer Grelle.
The City claimed Officer Grelle’s depression and emotional issues was not a factor in his termination. The City argued there was no evidence that the City viewed the officer as disabled. But, as the Court noted, the chief specifically referred Officer Grelle to a psychological evaluation. The chief noted at the time that Grelle had been suffering from depression for about a year. The Court noted that the timing was suspicious. The police department initiated an investigation into Officer Grelle regarding taking the bandaged prisoner to jail . That investigation started the day after the psychologists report was issued, and six weeks after the ride to jail. As the court noted, a reasonable jury could conclude that after the psychological evaluation did not remove Officer Grelle from the force, the investigation was initiated. See the decision here.