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Texas

Judge dismisses lawsuit filed by former Waco officer who claims he was forced to resign over outspoken views on race relations

Waco, TexasKWTX)- A federal judge dismissed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Waco filed two years ago by a former Waco police veteran who claims he was effectively forced to resign after the department shunned him for his outspoken views on race and community relations. .

In a 16-page order issued Tuesday – 13 days before the lawsuit was due to go to trial – U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey S. Manske granted the city and former police chief Ryan Holt’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the 25-year-old officer. -veteran. Stan Mason.

Mason’s lawsuit alleged that his rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection under the law were violated by the actions of his fellow officers and superiors.

Mason also claimed that his life was put in danger due to officers’ failure to respond to requests for support in a timely manner, and due to police chiefs failing to inform him that his life had been mentally threatened. sick.

Mason, who is now an investigator with the Fulton County District Attorney’s office in Atlanta, Georgia, said he was disappointed but respected the court’s decision.

“I don’t agree with that, but for now I will respect the court’s decision,” Mason said.

Mason’s attorney, Michael B. Roberts of Waco, said he was also disappointed and would discuss the possibility of an appeal with Mason.

Waco City Attorney Jennifer Richie said she and Holt agreed with the court’s decision to grant the city’s motion for summary judgment.

“The city remains committed to an inclusive policing that respects and protects the community,” Ritchie said.

Mason’s lawsuit says he had an “exemplary track record” during his long career with the department, was instrumental in establishing policing initiatives in Waco, and was well known for fostering good relations between the community and the police department.

Manske’s order notes that Mason resigned in February 2019 as a result of “feeling threatened by his treatment in the unit” and “concerned for his personal safety.”

In July 2016, Mason began creating Facebook videos discussing “cop suicides, voting rights, citizen rights” and other police-related topics. These video posts turned into a weekly blog that Mason calls “Behind the Blue Curtain” in May 2017.

“The success of the blog and Mason’s exercise of his right to free speech brought him undue attention within the Waco Police Department,” Mason’s lawsuit alleged.

Mason is African American. The broadcasts were never focused on the Waco Police Department, but rather on general areas of public interest in this day and age. All transfers were made out of form, in his spare time and at his expense.”

Holt, now an assistant city manager, opened an internal investigation after several officers complained that the posts humiliated the department. Holt “requested access to Mason’s Facebook page,” the lawsuit alleges, and a subsequent investigation found the videos did not defame or reflect unfavorably on the department, Manske said in his order.

“Plaintiff broadly alleges that defendants and fellow officers retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech,” Manske wrote. “But the complaint is largely devoid of any specific instances of Holt’s retaliation.”

Manske wrote that Mason did not allege that Holt had taken “adverse employment action” against him, and, by law, effectively weakened his claims by resigning.

The order also discredits Mason’s claims that his life was endangered by officers’ failure to respond to calls for support in a timely manner.

“Based on the undisputed evidence brought before the court in summary proceedings, a reasonable jury could not conclude that such an event was so unbearable that a reasonable person in the place of the plaintiff would feel compelled to resign,” the order says.

Similarly, as Manske wrote, Mason’s claims of a “good old boys network” do not provide sufficient evidence that such a network would force a reasonable person to retire.

“It is a simple fact that in the workplace, some workers will not get along with each other, and this court will not elevate a few harsh words or a “cold attitude” to the level of an offense,” Manske wrote, quoting from the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals case. .

As ordered, Mason did not provide conclusive evidence that Holt took revenge on him.

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