Former police officer sues city, police department

Published 12:38 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Former Middlesboro Police Officer Joshua Pratt is suing the City of Middlesboro and the Middlesboro Police Department on various allegations. The complaint was filed in Bell County Circuit Court on Monday.

According to the complaint, Pratt is seeking favor for general and compensatory damages that include but are not limited to back pay, front pay/reinstatement, other job-related benefits — as well as embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish.

Pratt was hired by the Middlesboro Police Department in 2003 as a patrol officer, and there are several allegations made against the department listed in the complaint that ultimately led to his termination in May 2018.

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The suit states that in 2014, Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe advised Pratt that he was next in line to be promoted to sergeant once a position was available. The complaint states opportunities for promotion opened up in 2017 and 2018, but Pratt was never provided the opportunity to meet with Sharpe about the open positions.

In the complaint, Pratt alleges he was passed over for the promotion because he refused to provide Sharpe with pain medication. The other two officers chosen for the promotion had less experience.

The lawsuit states that Pratt spoke with the Drug Enforcement Administration on more than one occasion about the alleged drug use by Sharpe. He alleged that the police chief would take drugs from evidence as well as have them provided by other officers.

“(Pratt) told the FBI agents the same information he told the DEA, including that he believed Chief Sharpe was taking pain medication out of the evidence room and other officers were giving Chief Sharpe pain medication,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Sharpe used pain medication while on duty. There was also an instance where 400 pills that had been seized went missing.

“In June of 2014, (Pratt) and officer Jeremiah Johnson responded to a domestic incident and during their investigation found an assortment of over 400 pills. These pills were seized and placed in MPD’s evidence locker,” the complaint states. “When Johnson went to retrieve the pills from the evidence locker to send them for testing at the Kentucky State Police crime lab, he discovered they were gone.”

The complaint then states narcotics from the evidence room had previously turned up missing, and Pratt believed that it was Sharpe who had taken them. The reason for his allegations is because the chief “had keys to the room and the chief was addicted to pain medication.”

After Pratt spoke to the DEA, agents attempted to speak with Sharpe, but he refused, according to the court document.

In 2017, Sharpe suspended Pratt without pay on the condition that Pratt had driven his patrol car around parking cones during the Christmas Parade. The suspension was dropped after Pratt requested a formal hearing take place in front of the Middlesboro City Council, according to the complaint.

On May 13, 2018, Pratt was “constructively discharged” from the Middlesboro Police Department.

The complaint goes on to state that Sharpe refused to give Pratt his paycheck although the City of Middlesboro had issued the check and provided it to the police department.

According to the complaint, Pratt ultimately received his final paycheck, two months later, when he contacted the city clerk and was issued a new check.

Along with the back pay, job-related benefits, and damages, Pratt and his attorney are asking for interest, punitive damages and a trial by jury.

The Middlesboro Daily News placed a call to the Middlesboro Police Department to speak with Sharpe. He was not available at the time of the call, but a message was left requesting a call back. As of press time, Sharpe has not returned the call.