SANTA FE, N.M. — A Santa Fe police officer maintains in a lawsuit that a supervisor at the Police Department made her stop working as a weapons instructor at the state Law Enforcement Academy because “of who she is as a woman and a lesbian.”
Sgt. Michele Williams maintains in the suit that Capt. Aric Wheeler had her stop the training work, for which she earned overtime pay, after it came to light that she was in a relationship with a cadet at the training academy.
Wheeler said he couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation. “That said,” Wheeler added, “I am confident that when the truth comes out in this case, everyone will see that the decisions I made were the right decisions to make, and I will stand behind those decisions.”
The suit makes reference to an incident report about Williams that was filed by a bureau chief at the training academy but maintains that the report contains false statements.
The lawsuit was filed Friday and names Wheeler, a former city police chief, and city government as defendants.
Williams’ suit, filed on her behalf by Albuquerque lawyer Timothy White, states that Williams had been a firearms instructor at the training academy since 2004, and on Sept. 2, Wheeler ordered her to not return. He told her that Phillip Gallegos, the academy’s Basic Training Bureau chief, had called to report that an “unknown/unidentified cadet” reported that Williams was “in an intimate relationship with a woman cadet in basic training at the academy,” according to the suit.
Wheeler told her that “it would improper for her to be in a relationship with a cadet,” the lawsuit states.
“Michele advised him that she had not instructed her partner on the firearms training, and that their only interaction at the academy was on one occasion when she loaned her partner and another cadet flashlights they needed for another block of instruction,” the suit says.
“Other cadets are permitted this type of contact with their wives, spouses, partners, boyfriends or girlfriends, whether their significant other is or is not a member of the Santa Fe Police Department, without repercussion,” the suit adds.
White, Williams’ lawyer, said Williams’ relationship with the cadet started three or four years before last year’s training session. “They have been partners for some time,” he said.
The lawsuit also accuses Gallegos of making “homophobic and other anti-gay slurs” and says that Gallegos failed Williams’ partner in a defensive tactics course. Gallegos also filed “some sort of incident report” about Williams “that contains false and defamatory statements about Michele,” the lawsuit maintains.
A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, which includes the training academy, couldn’t provide a comment about the suit late Monday afternoon.
The suit seeks compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and other costs.