LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Lexington Police Department has reassigned an officer involved in a federal lawsuit.
The Lexington Police Department announced the Lexington Police Chaplain position has been formally dissolved effective Monday, July 6 in a statement. Donovan Stewart, the current chaplain, has been reassigned to the Bureau of Patrol.
Read the full statement from the Lexington Police Department below:
"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."
This comes months after a lawsuit was filed in federal court against the Lexington Police Department following an incident involving Stewart and a teen with autism.
The suit was filed in connection with a February 2019 incident in which officers were dispatched to the Fayette Mall in connection to a complaint that two teens were being disorderly. Cell phone footage appears to show Chaplain Donovan Stewart punching one of those teens after he was restrained.
The suit claims that Stewart "flew into a rage" and assaulted the teen, identified only as A.B.T. in the documents. Lack of proper training, the suit alleges, violates the federally protected civil rights of persons with autism. Community activists demanded an investigation into the incident.
For weeks, demonstrators in Lexington have been marching in the streets demanding the police department fire Stewart, amid demanding an end to systemic racism in the United States.
Police have not made a connection between the incident involving Stewart and the teenager and the dissolving of the chaplain position. However, protest leaders told LEX 18 they are not satisfied with the police department’s announcement.
“It sounds nice. It makes for good politics. It makes for good talking points when you say what you’ve done to try and fix the situation but I don’t know that it truly fixes it,” said Sarah Williams. “What they’ve done is open up another loophole in accountability. You got rid of his position as chaplain so you don’t have to call it a demotion. You’ve now put him back out on the streets in direct encounter with civilians and that’s not okay.”
LEX 18 has reached out to Lexington Police at the time. They would not comment on the pending litigation.