Tennessee officer fired for high-fiving man using race slur

·2 min read

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee police department fired an officer last fall after video surfaced of him high-fiving a man who used a racial slur.

According to The Tennessean, the Franklin Police Department's November firing of Seth Schilling was confirmed by documents obtained through a public records request.

The documents say Schilling responded in October to a call at a bar about a man harassing customers, filming them and using racial and homophobic slurs.

The documents say a group of men was in the parking lot. One said the racial slur, followed by "See! First Amendment! First Amendment!” The man said he was a Donald Trump supporter, and Schilling said he supported the former president as well, documents say.

After the man said the racial slur, Schilling smiled and high-fived him, the documents show.

The man accused of harassing customers was not in that group, but Schilling found him and arrested him on public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges later, the documents show.

A video was posted on social media and has since been deleted, along with the account that posted it.

Schilling initially said during an administrative interview that he high-fived the man for being a Trump supporter, then after reviewing the video, he said the high-five was for the freedom of speech comment, documents show. He also said he didn't know there was video footage of the encounter.

According to a transcript of an internal affairs hearing, he also said he instinctively "went for it" when the man put his hand up, since drunk people often ask for high-fives or handshakes. He said it wasn't for the slur.

“The conversation was getting a little weird and it was honestly just trying to keep the situation calm,” he said, according to the transcript.

Additionally, at the hearing, Schilling said he had become numb to slurs because inmates frequently said them when he worked as a correctional officer.

Human resources director Kevin Townsel said Schilling participated in a “grotesque conversation” and didn't condemn the slur, saying further that the man could've overpowered Schilling and taken his gun during the high-five.

A review of Chief Deborah Faulkner's decision to fire Schilling found that he showed no remorse for high-fiving the man.

Faulkner said Schilling was not involved in any other incidents of racial discrimination or bias. A performance review by Schilling's boss found the officer, who was hired in 2019, didn't “always make sound, accurate (and) timely decisions.”