United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
MARK H. WILLIS PLAINTIFF
ARKANSAS STATE POLICE DEFENDANT
OPINION AND ORDER
KRISTINE G. BAKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Mark H. Willis brings this action under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000-e
(“Title VII”), alleging race discrimination.
Defendant Arkansas State Police (“ASP”) filed a
motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 16). Mr. Willis has not
responded to the ASP's motion. For the reasons that
follow, the Court grants the ASP's motion for summary
judgment (Dkt. No. 16).
otherwise noted, the following facts are taken from the
ASP's statement of undisputed material facts (Dkt. No.
18). Mr. Willis has not responded to the ASP's statement
of undisputed material facts. Pursuant to Rule 56.1 of the
Local Rules of the United States District Court for the
Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas, the Court deems
admitted the ASP's statement of undisputed material
Willis, an African-American, was hired as an employee of the
ASP on September 5, 2014 (Dkt. No. 18, ¶¶ 1, 2).
Mr. Willis worked as an ASP Trooper (Dkt. No. 18-11). Mr.
Willis completed the ASP's training academy in December
2014 (Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 3).
December 8, 2014, Mr. Willis was transferred to Troop F in
Warren, Arkansas (Id., ¶ 4). He attended the
Troop F Field Training Program (Id.). Sergeant Alex
Krneta-who is Caucasian-was the Field Training Supervisor
(Id., ¶¶ 5, 7). Sergeant Krneta supervised
Troopers in both Ouachita and Union Counties (Id.,
¶ 6). Each Trooper is assigned to a single county, and
Mr. Willis was assigned to Ouachita County (Id.,
¶¶ 8, 9). Sergeant Krneta supervised Mr. Willis
from December 2014 until his termination in February 2016
(Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 10).
his or her arrival at a Troop, a new Trooper participates in
a Field Training Program (Id., ¶ 11). The
standard program lasts for eight weeks; however, if remedial
training is needed, the program will last up to 12 weeks
(Id.). Mr. Willis' training lasted 12 weeks, in
order to further assist him in the area of crash
investigations (Id., ¶ 12).
the training program, the new recruit works alongside a more
experienced officer for hands-on training (Id.,
¶ 13). The Field Training Officer assists the new
recruit in investigating incidents and accidents, gathering
information, and preparing accurate documentation reflecting
what occurred (Id., ¶ 14). When an incident or
accident occurs, the Trooper, or other ASP law enforcement
official involved, will prepare a report to document what has
occurred (Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 15). The report must be as
accurate as possible so that, if it is needed in the future,
such as for insurance purposes or litigation, the parties can
rely on the information stated in the report as being
truthful and accurate (Id., ¶ 16). The Trooper
is to enter all of the information into the computer in order
to allow a written report to be generated (Id.,
Willis' supervisor, Sergeant Krneta reviewed Mr.
Willis' incident and accident reports between December
2014 and February 2016 (Id., ¶ 18). Sergeant
Krneta was Mr. Willis' immediate supervisor; however,
from time to time, other sergeants would review Mr.
Willis' incident and accident reports (Id.,
¶ 19). Sergeant Gary Gambill and Sergeant Clayton
Richardson also reviewed Mr. Willis' incident and
accident reports during Mr. Willis' tenure with Troop F
(Id., ¶ 20). Sergeant Krneta could also review
the reports of other Troopers who were not under his direct
supervision (Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 21).
Sergeant Krneta's job duties and responsibilities as
sergeant was to review incident and accident reports
submitted by the ASP Troopers under his supervision
(Id., ¶ 22). Sergeant Krneta does not pick and
choose which officers' reports to review; he reviews them
all (Id.). If an error has been made, the report
will be “rejected.” (Id., ¶ 23).
Upon receipt of a “rejected” report, the Trooper
is to make the necessary changes and then resubmit the report
for approval (Id.).
Gambill was the first supervising sergeant to reject one of
Mr. Willis' accident reports (Id., ¶ 24).
On December 20, 2014, Sergeant Gambill rejected Mr.
Willis' Report No. 52121470 (Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 25).
Sergeant Gambill emailed the rejected report to Corporal
Sequoyah Browning (Id.). That week, Corporal
Browning was Mr. Willis' Field Training Officer, and Mr.
Willis was shadowing Corporal Browning as on-the-job training
(Id.). Sergeant Gambill sent the rejected report to
Corporal Browning to review with Mr. Willis (Id.).
Corporal Browning is African-American (Id., ¶
Willis shadowed approximately four different Field Training
Officers during his 12 weeks of training with Troop F
(Id., ¶ 27). Once a report is “rejected,
” the Trooper is to correct the errors and resubmit it
for approval (Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 28). Troopers do not
receive a reprimand or reduction in pay for a rejected report
(Id., ¶ 29). The goal is to have a final report
that is true and accurate and that can be relied on at a
later date if needed (Id.).
Krneta rejected one of Mr. Willis' reports-Report No.
52021506-on February 4, 2015, for errors contained in the
report (Id., ¶ 30). Sergeant Krneta emailed a
copy of the report to Billy Walker, Mr. Willis' Field
Training Officer at that time (Id., ¶ 30). The
purpose of returning the February 4, 2015, report to Mr.
Walker was so that he could review the report with Mr.
Willis, and together they could make the necessary changes
(Id., ¶ 31). Mr. Walker is African-American
(Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 32). Because the Field Training Program
is a learning experience for the new recruits, neither Mr.
Walker nor Mr. Willis was reprimanded in any way for the
“rejection” of the February 4, 2015, report
(Id., ¶¶ 33, 34).
March 28, 2015, Sergeant Gambill rejected Mr. Willis'
Report No. 52031523 (Id., ¶ 35). Sergeant
Gambill emailed the rejected report to Mr. Willis,
identifying eight different areas to correct (Id.).
On April 11, 2015, Sergeant Krneta rejected Mr. Willis'
Report No. 52041524 (Id., ¶ 36). The report was
rejected due to errors contained in the report
(Id.). Sergeant Krneta emailed Mr. Willis that day
and attached a copy of the changes that needed to be made to
the report (Id.). Sergeant Krneta asked Mr. Willis
to have the report re-submitted for approval by the end of
his shift (Id.). Changes to reports are expected to
be re-submitted the same day the rejection is received, if
the Trooper is working the day a rejection is sent
(Id., ¶ 37). If the Trooper happens to be off
when the report is rejected, then changes should be made as
soon as the Trooper returns to work from his or her days off
(Id.). This is true for every Trooper, not just Mr.
April 13, 2015, Sergeant Gambill received Mr. Willis'
revised report No. 52041524 (Id., ¶ 38).
Sergeant Gambill rejected the report due to errors that
remained in the report (Id.). On April 23, 2015,
Sergeant Krneta met with Mr. Willis at the Camden Police
Department for approximately one hour to discuss Report No.
52041524 (Id., ¶ 39). They reviewed the
applicable errors on the Collision Report (Id.).
They then carefully went over all of the necessary
corrections that needed to be made (Id.). At the
conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Willis acknowledged every
aspect that had been discussed and assured Sergeant Krneta
that his future performance in this area would improve
April 30, 2015, Sergeant Krneta received a Fatal Accident
Report Form-ASP-25- from Mr. Willis ((Id., ¶
40). After reviewing the form, Sergeant Krneta noticed a
number of significant errors (Id.). Sergeant Krneta
contacted Mr. Willis by phone and explained the errors to him
(Id.). Thereafter, Sergeant Krneta carefully went
over all of the necessary corrections that needed to be made
to the form (Id.). Sergeant Krneta's efforts
were to assist Mr. Willis in understanding the errors that he
had made and to teach him how to complete the report
correctly the next time (Id.).
1, 2015, Sergeant Krneta again met with Mr. Willis at the
Camden Police Department to assist him in preparing Collision
Report No. 52041533FM (Fatality Report) (Id., ¶
41). During the meeting, Sergeant Krneta reviewed the
applicable errors on the Collision Report with Mr. Willis
(Id.). Thereafter, they carefully went over all of
the necessary corrections that needed to be made
(Id.). During the meeting, Mr. Willis appeared to be
confused regarding a number of aspects concerning crash scene
mapping and diagraming (Id.). After approximately
2.5 hours of training, it was evident to Sergeant Krneta that
Mr. Willis was having difficulties grasping the fundamentals
of investigating a collision, despite his reassurances to
Sergeant Krneta that he understood the material they had
reviewed (Id.). On May 5, 2015, Captain Charles
Hubbard, the Troop F Commander, asked Sergeant Krneta to
outline the areas of deficiencies for Mr. Willis
(Id., ¶ 42).
6, 2015, Sergeant Richardson arrived at the scene of a motor
vehicle collision being investigated by Mr. Willis
(Id.). Mr. Willis was having difficulties mapping
the crash scene (Id.). As a result, Sergeant
Richardson had to remain on scene and guide Mr. Willis on how
to obtain properly crash scene measurements (Id.,
¶ 43). Sergeant Richardson is African-American
(Id., ¶ 44).
8, 2015, Sergeant Krneta prepared a memorandum to Captain
Hubbard (Id., ¶ 45). In it, Sergeant Krneta
documented eight areas related to investigations that Mr.
Willis needed to improve (Id.). Sergeant Krneta
recommended that Mr. Willis attend remedial training in the
areas of Collision Investigation and Collision Report
preparation (Id.). Specifically, Sergeant Krneta
recommended Corporal Jeff Hust, a Field Training Officer, be
assigned to assist Mr. Willis in his investigations and
report preparations (Id.). Sergeant Krneta
explained, in detail, the events that had transpired over the
preceding two weeks regarding Mr. Willis' perceived
difficulties in creating accurate reports (Id.).
Sergeant Krneta recommended the remedial training begin on
May 12, 2015, and conclude on June 5, 2015 (Id.).
9, 2015, Mr. Willis submitted Collision Report No. 52051535
(Id., ¶ 46). In spite of Sergeant
Richardson's assistance, the report was submitted with
various date element errors, narrative errors, and crash
scene mapping and diagramming errors (Id.).
12, 2015, Sergeant Krneta met with Captain Hubbard to discuss
Mr. Willis (Id., ¶ 47). After a lengthy
discussion, they agreed on Mr. Willis' deficiencies
surrounding Collision Investigation and Collision Report
preparation (Id.). Captain Hubbard approved the
Corrective Action Plan (Id.). The goal of the
Corrective Action Plan was to help Mr. Willis succeed
(Id., ¶ 48).
29, 2015, Sergeant Krneta received a memorandum from Corporal
Hust (Id., ¶ 49). Corporal Hust indicated that,
during his training with Mr. Willis, he felt that Mr. Willis
had made progress in the area of obtaining measurements and
diagramming the accidents, as well as progress in how to
obtain and record information in an efficient and logical
manner (Id.). Corporal Hust also indicated that the
areas in which he felt Mr. Willis was weakest were the
narration of the events of the crash, as well as the
narration required to produce a diagram that is easily
followed (Id.). Corporal Hust recommended Mr. Willis
receive extensive training in the area of writing
(Id.). Mr. Willis was released to work on his own
again on May 30, 2015 (Id., ¶ 50).
2015, Sergeant Krneta found two of Mr. Willis' reports
contained grammatical and vocabulary errors; however,
Sergeant Krneta could see some improvement with the diagrams
Mr. Willis was drawing (Id., ¶ 51). Sergeant
Krneta was hopeful that Mr. Willis' work product would
continue to improve (Id.). On June 2, 2015, Sergeant
Krneta met with Mr. Willis, Captain Hubbard, and Lieutenant
Charles Watson at Troop F Headquarters (Id., ¶
52). They discussed Mr. Willis' prior deficiencies and
the training that had taken place (Id.). Captain
Hubbard asked Mr. Willis how he was feeling after training,
and Mr. Willis said he was feeling more confident
(Id.). Captain Hubbard asked Mr. Willis to let those
at the meeting know if Mr. Willis had any suggestions on how
they could better help him (Id.). Mr. Willis never
offered any suggestions (Id., ¶ 53). At the
conclusion of the meeting, Captain Hubbard recommended that
Mr. Willis return to Little Rock and attend classes in crash
investigation and report writing with the Troop School
(Id., ¶ 54).
8, 2015, Sergeant Krneta rejected Mr. Willis' Report No.
70061559 due to errors contained in the report (Id.,
¶ 55). On June 22, 2015, Sergeant Krneta rejected Mr.
Willis' Report No. 52061540 due to errors contained in
the report (Id., ¶ 56). Sergeant Krneta sent
him the documents needed in order to make the necessary
corrections (Id.). On June 24, 2015, Sergeant ...