JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - On Monday, a former Pearl police detective filed a federal lawsuit against the city, primarily asking for his job back.
It was Dave McCarley, the officer honored as the NRA’s national Officer of the Year in 2012. Details aren’t clear as to why McCarley was told by Police Chief Dean Scott that he could resign or be fired, but not wanting to mar his record, McCarley chose to resign.
“Realizing that involuntary employment termination could ruin his future in law enforcement, Officer McCarley resigned,” reads the complaint.
The move would cost him money, and it would also break his heart. McCarley told us he just wanted to be able to retire at the department and in the city he loved so much.
“I was working patrol whenever Dave started in dispatch here, so I’ve known Dave for quite some time,” said former Police Chief Ben Shuler. “He worked his way up to getting in patrol, going to the academy, getting put on the street, and then becoming a detective. I think Dave was very thorough and I think he had a very big passion for his job.”
Pearl Mayor Jake Windham said he was limited in what he could say because of the pending litigation.
“I’m sorry the situation has come to this but like I said, we look forward to the facts being presented in entirety in court,” Windham said.
“The Chief understood that there was no just cause to terminate Plaintiff and that without just cause, if the Chief proposed that Plaintiff be terminated, on an administrative appeal, Plaintiff McCarley would have been reinstated,” the complaint states.
The incident came during a time of turnover for the department as the administrations changed. Some officers were fired, some chose to resign or retire, and some left of their own accord. Over roughly two months, some 26 officers left the department.
The court papers also allege that McCarley asked for a polygraph, but that Scott refused to have one administered. The papers also state that McCarley was not given a pre-termination hearing before those who would decide if the termination was justified, and in addition says that McCarley was not given a post-termination due process evidentiary hearing during which witnesses could be called to testify to whether there was cause for termination.
“Substantive due process was also violated because Plaintiff was terminated by misleading coercion where there was no cause whatsoever to terminate the Plaintiff,” the complaint states, adding that had there been a post-termination due process hearing, McCarley would have remained employed.
Former supervisors said McCarley had an exemplary record. One spoke to WLBT on condition of anonymity, citing job concerns.
“Although receiving public attention and gratitude, McCarley never wanted to be in the spotlight and always would want things to be different,” the former supervisor said. “McCarley always did what was asked of him by his superiors and not once questioned a command if instructed.”
The NRA award, which is given to the top cop in the country by the NRA, came from his actions on May 1, 2012, when he was assisting on a search warrant that went terribly wrong, with several detectives being injured and Detective Mike Walter being killed.
McCarley found himself trapped in a room with the killer, his gun hand badly disabled. He went to check on Walter, who was in dire condition, but during that time McCarley obtained Walter’s weapon and was able to shoot the gunman with his non-dominant hand.
It was a day that affected a lot of people for the rest of their lives, and Shuler commented on McCarley’s bravery and level-headedness not only on that day, but also in the aftermath.
“Everything changes us, especially something like that. That day, to go through what he went through and to come out with the mental state of mind that he had was quite awesome as far as how he handled that,” said Shuler.
McCarley’s attorney did not respond to our requests for comment.
Mississippi is an at-will employment state.