Maegan Hall — the 26-year-old patrol officer fired along with several colleagues from a police department in La Vergne, Tennessee after incidents of workplace sex came to light in January — is now suing the city and three of her former superiors. Hall’s 51-page federal complaint alleges that they and others “groomed her for sexual exploitation.”
Besides Burrel “Chip” Davis — who was chief of LPD until he, too, was fired in connection with the scandal in February — the suit names terminated Sergeants Henry “Ty” McGowan and Lewis Powell. The suit claims Hall, who is married, was a vulnerable young woman new to a department dominated by much older men given to objectifying and harassing her. Members of the department purportedly offered favors in return for sex or threatened her career security if she withheld it. Feeling more trapped and desperate as she submitted to these advances, the complaint alleges, Hall began to self-harm, leading to her hospitalization in December.
The department’s internal investigation into these matters, the suit notes, characterized all sexual activity as initiated by Hall herself, with Davis and McGowan allegedly conspiring to influence the ultimate findings in their favor. As a result, early media coverage of the scandal portrayed Hall as a “girls gone wild cop” — which in turn spawned viral memes and commentary making light of her supposedly voracious sexual appetites. Soon enough, internet scammers were pushing phony links to rumored videos of Hall having sex with fellow officers.
In addition to the damages Hall is seeking for lost wages and medical expenses, the complaint alleges that she suffered an “extraordinary degree of public ridicule and shaming” thanks to the “exploitative and false” version of the story that first came out of the La Vergne Police Department. “Ms. Hall’s face became the ‘Female Cop’ meme widely circulated throughout the internet,” it states. “Entire forums have emerged where users swap memes and sexual fantasies about Ms. Hall,” including Reddit’s r/maeganhallcop, which hosts memes and photoshopped pornography of Hall.
The suit further claims that Hall has been stalked and harassed “by strangers from the internet and paparazzi” because of memes and videos that received “millions of views” across social media. Hall also allegedly lost a restaurant job she was hired for after being terminated from the police department due to the “extreme degree of publicity” she faced as the butt of ongoing viral jokes.
Outside investigators have already found that the original LPD report on sexual misconduct was misleading and incomplete. They concluded, in particular, that Chief Davis failed to discipline officers for inappropriate behavior that he knew about, then diverted the course of the investigation. He became the sixth person to lose his job in the department thanks to an apparent culture of sexual impropriety there.
While Hall’s legal filing rests directly on the actions of her one-time coworkers, it’s unusual for its attention to the consequences of unwanted and unpredicted internet infamy. Viewing the web content generated with Hall’s name and likeness in the past few weeks, the claims that her reputation was tarnished may be difficult to dispute. The meme-makers themselves, however, are off the hook for now.