Rutherford County Sheriff's Office sued federally for promotion practices

Posted at 8:39 AM, Oct 04, 2021

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new lawsuit filed in federal court alleges the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department didn't promote one of its own based on skin color.

In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee on Sept. 30, Roscoe Sanders said he tried for a promotion 15 times within the department and was denied each time. The last time he applied for a promotion in 2020, a white candidate was chosen instead before the all-white selection committee, the lawsuit stated.

"The county did not follow the standard operating procedure in their failure to promote Deputy Sanders," attorney Constance Mann wrote in the filing. "The white candidate was not qualified having never previously been a top candidate in any promotion process. In recent promotions, Deputy Sanders substantially outperformed the same white candidate in standardized scoring during the interview processes. The deputy’s race of African American is a motivating factor because the selection committee was all white. The deputy’s race of African American is a motivating factor when he was the only candidate who had scored in the top five in the previous promotion interview."

Sanders further alleged in the suit when he asked about the promotion, he was called "dumb f---ing n-----."

Presently, the Sheriff’s Office employs one African American lieutenant, three African American sergeants, and zero African American captains or chiefs, according to the suit.

"In promotions, to include an increase in seniority, from Jan. 12, 2017, through the present, 115 whites have received a promotion as compared to 16 Black people. This represents 13 percent and is in violation of the 80/20 rule," Mann wrote in the suit.

Sanders is asking for $2.5 million in damages along with a jury trial. NewsChannel 5 has reached out to the RSCO for comment.

The department said it cannot comment on pending litigation.