Deputy police chief sues Columbus over required nude drug tests, other 'retaliation'

·2 min read
Columbus Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Knight had a prominent presence during the protests in Columbus sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in late May 2020. Knight spoke to the media outside of the Columbus Division of Police headquarters in this file photo from June 8, 2020.
Columbus Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Knight had a prominent presence during the protests in Columbus sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in late May 2020. Knight spoke to the media outside of the Columbus Division of Police headquarters in this file photo from June 8, 2020.

A Columbus deputy police chief who was temporarily suspended, then reinstated last year after she failed to promptly show up for a random drug test has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming that it is trying to force her into early retirement.

The Dispatch reported in November that Columbus Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Knight was placed on leave after saying her schedule didn't permit a 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. drug test. She later took a private test, which her attorney said she passed.

"Occasionally, members of the command staff selected for drug testing would simply advise the testing coordinator they were unavailable, rather than rescheduling, and the coordinator would simply move down the list to the next selectee," the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Columbus, says.

But the city instead treated Knight's incident as a "positive test," it says.

Jennifer Knight: Columbus police deputy chief's lawyer says nude drug tests are retaliation

While Knight was restored to full duty on Dec. 2, she has been forced to meet with drug and alcohol counselors and undergo a return-to-duty urinalysis "which required her to fully disrobe and be observed urinating into the receptacle." She is "subjected to ongoing and continuing 'Direct Observed Collection,'" in which someone watches her urinate, the lawsuit says, requiring her "to fully disrobe and be fully observed, naked, urinating into a cup."

She has taken such tests four times since late November and must continue to do so "despite the lack of any articulable or individualized suspicion that she has or does use alcohol or drugs," the lawsuit says.

Columbus police Deputy Chief Jennifer Knight
Columbus police Deputy Chief Jennifer Knight

"That's about as invasive, intrusive experience as one can imagine," said Zachary Gottesman, her attorney.

Knight, 55, has never been accused of being addicted to alcohol or using illegal drugs, Gottesman said. Her suit also alleges various other forms of retaliation.

Gottesman has said the city is really targeting Knight for her opinion about how the division handled the situation involving police Lt. Melissa McFadden, whose book, "Walking the Thin Black Line: Confronting Racism in the Columbus Division of Police," was published in September 2020.

Knight was commander of the division's Internal Affairs bureau, which investigated McFadden's complaints and found them unfounded, the lawsuit says, a decision that was overruled by then-Public Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr.

Columbus Department of Public Safety spokesman Glenn McEntyre said in an email that the city is "not able to comment on pending litigation, but we can state the city does not tolerate discriminatory conduct.”

Columbus is currently crafting a retirement buyout for deputy chiefs that was reported to be set at $300,000.

wbush@gannett.com

@ReporterBush

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus police: Deputy chief sues over ongoing nude drug tests