Police officer on leave, claims discrimination|[6/03/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

A Vicksburg police officer being put on administrative leave says he is, in effect, being fired because of a medical condition.

Rudolph Walker, a 30-year veteran, has had diabetes for half of that career. He said that condition began causing blackout spells earlier this year and, in April, he presented the deputy chief with a letter from his doctor asking that he be placed on day shifts so he wouldn’t be on duty at night.

Walker has also been Central District constable of Warren County since 2002, an elected position. The county has three constable posts and their main role is serving summonses, lawsuits and other court documents.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

He said that his request was ignored for weeks until city officials told him to present another doctor’s letter this week showing him fit for duty or go on administrative leave.

“They’re after me because I’m a black man and I’m outspoken, but I’m going to continue to speak out,” Walker said.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen took action earlier this week during a closed session, but did not disclose details of its decision. When asked later about the case, Mayor Laurence Leyens said the city had tried to work with Walker.

“We can’t have an officer on duty blacking out,” Leyens said. “We’ve done everything we can to accommodate him, but his goal is to be constable and police officer simultaneously and get both paychecks at the same time.”

Lamar Horton, director of the city’s human resources, said the city received a letter from Walker’s doctor in April seeking to have him put on the day shift, but no medical reason was cited for the request change.

Horton said Walker’s doctor also wrote that Walker was fit for duty without limitation, but that when the city learned of the blackouts Walker was pulled off patrol duty.

After that, Horton said the city again asked for a statement of his fitness for duty from Walker’s doctor.

“He can’t work if he’s blacking out and we can’t allow him to work unless he gives us the proper medical information,” Horton said.

Walker said he believes his post as constable was also part of the reason for the action taken against him. He said Deputy Police Chief Richard O’Bannon brought up his elective job when Walker first talked to O’Bannon about his medical condition.

“The first thing out of his mouth was, ‘What about your constable job?’ and I said that’s none of your business,” Walker said. “What (Police Chief Tommy) Moffett and them were trying to get my doctor to do was to have me declared totally unfit for duty so they could get rid of me.”

Walker said he plans to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and will be represented by local attorneys Richard Dean and Travis T. Vance Jr.

“I’m protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They need to accommodate me,” Walker said.

Horton said Walker might qualify under the Family Medical Leave Act, but that Walker has not asked to be put in that status.