Lexington Police Dept. reassigns officer at center of civil rights lawsuit

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 3:57 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Lexington Police Department has reassigned the department’s chaplain, Donovan Stewart.

Stewart is named as a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing him of repeatedly punching a teenager while responding to an incident at Fayette Mall in 2019.

No disciplinary action was taken against Stewart, but, recently, activists have been turning up the pressure on the department to do more.

“I won’t say that I’m fearful because I don’t operate in fear,” Community Organizer Sarah Williams, who has been a vocal leader in the protests for accountability, said. “I’m very deeply concerned about the safety of our children and of adults in this community.”

Donovan Stewart
Donovan Stewart(Lexington Police Dept.)

Monday, the department announced that Stewart has been “reassigned” as a third shift patrol officer.

The move effectively dissolves the chaplain role at the department.

In a statement from Stewart’s attorney Scott Crosbie, he said the decision to abolish the chaplain position will leave a void that can’t be filled by someone who hasn’t experienced the toll of being a police officer.

Crosbie also said Fayette County prosecutors independently reviewed the case and cleared him of any wrongdoing. There are criminal charges pending against a juvenile.

But for protesters, this is not the kind of accountability they were pushing for.

“Dissolving Donovan Stewart’s position and simply moving him actually into a position that puts us in the community more at risk, now he’s out patrolling on third shift, I hope to God he has a body camera,” Williams said. “That actually does nothing to keep us any safer, it actually puts us more at risk and our children more at risk, so no, we’re not happy with what they did today.”

The department released this statement Monday afternoon:

For the past year, the Lexington Police Department has been developing a holistic wellness program to provide improved services for department employees.

By partnering with professionals with mental health, nutrition, and veteran affairs expertise, we are committed to enhancing the well-being of our personnel.

As part of the development of this program, Lexington Police is planning to transition from a spiritual Chaplain officer position to a civilian wellness coordinator. This coordinator would oversee physical, psychological, spiritual, financial and professional wellness activities across the department.

Effective Monday, July 6, the Lexington Police Chaplain position was formally dissolved and Donovan Stewart has been reassigned to the Bureau of Patrol. Members of the Community Chaplaincy Program have been notified of that program’s suspension. The department values its community partnerships and looks forward to working with city leaders and organizations to grow our wellness program.

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