- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - A jury on Wednesday awarded $4.1 million to three former Mocksville police officers who said in a lawsuit that they were fired from their jobs for raising concerns about how their department was run.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported the jury in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem returned its decision around 7 p.m. after asking the judge to extend deliberations past the usual 5 p.n. adjournment. Closing arguments were made earlier in the day.

Maj. Ken Hunter, Lt. Rick Donathan and Detective Jerry Medlin were fired Dec. 29, 2011, about two weeks after they had contacted the N.C. Attorney General’s Office and the Governor’s Office to report allegations of misconduct and ask for an independent investigation.

After the firings, they filed a lawsuit claiming that former Mocksville Police Chief Robert Cook and Town Manager Christine Bralley had violated their free-speech rights in firing them.

They sued in 2012 and were seeking at least $100,000 each in damages and their jobs back for wrongful termination and other complaints. The jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages to each of the officers.

Hunter received $1.2 million; Donathan got $1.7 million and Medlin was awarded about $1.16 million. The compensation was based on lost wages, lost future earnings and the emotional distress from the firings.

Medlin testified that some of the problems with the department included an officer showing up for duty under the influence of drugs, another officer stealing from a supply closet and yet another officer slamming a woman to the floor of a department store. In another instance, Medlin said an officer made an inappropriate comment to Medlin’s wife during a phone call. He said none of the officers faced any discipline for their actions.

Cook testified last week that the firings had nothing to do with the three officers reporting allegations of corruption in the police department. He told the court that he didn’t know about the officers calling the Governor’s Office, and that he had plenty of reasons to fire all three officers.

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Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com

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