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A Tennessee police officer has been cleared of wrongdoing after a black nurse accused her of racial profiling.
On Dec. 6, Stephanie Martin wrote a Facebook post about Deputy Rhonda Casillas of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee. “I would like to give a special acknowledgment to…Deputy Rhonda Casillas for abusing her power as an officer and being rude along with treating me like a criminal in front of one of my patients yesterday,” wrote Martin.
The nurse of three years said during a home visit in Nashville, Casillas knocked on the door after a neighbor was alarmed by a “suspicious” woman in the area. “I had nursing equipment, my work bag with my company logo on it, I had on scrubs and stethoscope hanging from my neck, she still was not convinced,” wrote Martin, explaining that her patient had confirmed she was a nurse.
Martin even called her employer Kristin Paulk at Amedisys Home Health. “My boss immediately asked are y’all saying she looked suspicious because she’s black the sheriff says no, I just wanted to know what she was doing in the neighborhood, my boss replied ‘Well she’s one of my best nurses and she’s out giving back to the community and providing care to people so they can continue to live at home and avoid being put back in the hospital, and she has every right to do that.'”
According to the Facebook post, Casillas asked the patient, “If she’s not [supposed] to be here, just say it. Are you sure you know her? When is someone else going to be back while she is here?”
As Martin tried to leave, two more squad cars arrived. “After five more minutes, I was finally able to go and even after that, [Casillas] continued to watch me to make sure I left the neighborhood,” wrote Martin. “You continued to try and manipulate my patient into saying that I was not supposed to be in her house, you wanted me to be a criminal, you didn’t want me to be a nurse and you definitely did not want me in that neighborhood.”
“The treatment you gave was uncalled for the way you handled the situation was unprofessional, your attitude was disrespectful, you are a racist, treating innocent people like they don’t have the right to be in certain areas. I honestly don’t feel like you deserve a badge,” she wrote.
Martin, 24, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “I felt the officer was pressuring my patient to say she felt unsafe.”
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office released a 32-page internal affairs investigative case file by Sgt. Kevin Sheldon, stating that a neighbor had called the police after Martin knocked on the doors of three different homes and peered into their windows.
“It was my first time visiting the patient — I was filling in for a co-worker — and I knocked on the wrong door by accident,” Martin tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I realized the correct home was across the street and the patient’s granddaughter was pulling out of the driveway as I arrived.”
According to the case file, Martin didn’t have her employer ID; however, Martin tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Casillas refused to look at her credentials. “I tried to show her my work ID, but she was more concerned with the fact that I had two driver’s licenses in my wallet — one had expired and I hadn’t thrown it out yet because I like the photo.” (In the report, Martin and the police disagree on whether Martin had her employer ID.)
Paulk did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment, but according to the case file, she wrote in a message to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department, “I have been doing home health for 11 years and I have been lost, I have wandered around to back doors, I have turned around in the wrong driveway, etc. multiple times. I have never been questioned by the police. But I am white and this nurse is black and I suppose in Franklin, T.N., that may make a difference.”
She wrote, “What I cannot make sense of, and what bothers me the most, is the attitude of the female officer that questioned my nurse and spoke to me. Her tone was argumentative, harsh, and aggressive over a matter that was quickly rectified by simply speaking to the patient.”
In the case report, Casillas calls Martin uncooperative and Sheldon said he unsuccessfully tried to interview Martin multiple times. However, Martin tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Sheldon had strep throat and she wanted to avoid infecting her patients. After she suddenly heard the case had been closed, Martin hired a lawyer to speak on her behalf.
A representative of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. County attorney Lisa Carson told the Tennessean, “The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office always takes allegations of this nature seriously and conducted an internal investigation in a timely manner upon becoming aware of the complaint. As I believe will be evident from the internal investigation report, there is no indication that the deputies who responded to this call were motivated by Ms. Dash-Martin’s race or by any other inappropriate consideration. The deputies acted professionally in exercising due diligence to ensure that a potentially vulnerable member of our community was protected.”
Martin’s attorney Tricia Herzfeld tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Stephanie was harassed because of her race while trying to provide medical care to a patient. She is terribly disappointed that the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office rushed their investigation and released it without ever speaking to her. We will do what is necessary to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”
Herzfeld also told Nashville’s WZTV of the report: “Never in my career have I seen such a rush job. It looks like the sheriff’s department was probably responding to the intense media coverage of this issue and wanted to hurriedly get something out to the public to exonerate their officers.”
Martin tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Casillas treated her in a certain way because of her skin color. “I want her to face consequences.”
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