Josh Doggrell: How the city of Anniston has smeared my reputation
On June 19, 2015, I was abruptly fired by Anniston City Manager Brian Johnson. I have always taken my duties as a peace officer very seriously, and I believe I owe the citizens of Anniston an explanation. I provided that at my civil service hearing, but few people were present. From speaking to members of the community and reading online comments, there is still much misinformation about my situation.
I became a member of The League of the South in 1995 — two years prior to becoming a law-enforcement officer. I was active in it when serving more than nine years as a deputy with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office and more than nine years as a police officer in Anniston. Anniston officials knew it when they hired me in 2006. The city conducted an internal investigation into the matter in the spring of 2009 when I began a local chapter, which was covered by this newspaper. I was cleared of any wrongdoing. It has been common knowledge since then, yet I was promoted twice and entrusted with myriad assignments and sensitive responsibilities over the years.
Never was I disciplined for my involvement. Never did any of my superiors instruct me to cease involvement or membership with the League. If my affiliation is as terrible a thing as some are making out, I am still waiting on the command staff of APD to be fired for allowing it for so many years.
I am a Christian, Southern, heterosexual, conservative white male. In spite of the politically correct world we live in, I am not going to apologize for any of those things my Creator made me. On the contrary, I am proud of it. When someone of a different religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or color advocates for their people or their cause, that is accepted and applauded by mass media and the elites. When white, Christian Southerners do it, we are told we are “hateful” and “racist.” I say that is a bunch of bull.
I am a Southern secessionist. I certainly believe we would be better off free from the decay of Washington, D.C., in our lives. Inevitably, I read where someone will write that secession is “treason.” I always want to ask them, if they feel that way, what are they celebrating every Fourth of July?
I am a sinner, saved by the blood of Christ. Lord knows, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and, at times over the years, I have been a very poor representative of Him. But I do not “hate” anyone. Many witnesses were called by the city and the defense in my hearing. All who were questioned testified, under oath, that they had never seen or heard me act in a (to use the city’s words in its formal allegations) “prejudicial, offensive or divisive manner.”
I treat people fairly. I have worked with black people throughout my 18-year career, yet the city could find none willing to testify otherwise. The only black officer who did testify was a former subordinate of mine who testified on my behalf as a character witness, verifying my professionalism and my fairness.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a leftist, Marxist political organization disguising itself as a law firm that has long practiced and honed the art of character assassination against anyone with whom it disagrees with politically. This year has been splendid for the left when it comes to targeting cops, so the SPLC set its sights on me this spring and published a hit piece June 17. Within hours, I was placed on administrative leave, despite the city’s nine-year-long knowledge. A mere 48 hours later, after what I am sure was an exhaustive “investigation,” I learned that I was fired by City Manager Brian Johnson when I got the news that he had announced it at a press conference.
In spite of my request through Police Chief Shane Denham, never once did I get to speak to Johnson during the entire process. I was not told at the time what policy I had supposedly violated. I find it interesting that only recently the city instituted a “hate group” policy for employees. It begs the questions: If the policy did not exist at the time of my termination, for what was I fired? And if the policies I allegedly violated were good enough to fire me, then why is this new policy necessary? It was six days after the press conference before I was notified what the alleged policy violations were.
I spent more than an hour on the stand testifying about my biblical opposition to homosexual marriage. I considered it further evidence that the church is next in the sights of the powers-that-be. I urge Christians to gird themselves and get mentally prepared for the struggle that is coming.
One of the city’s allegations was that I “misrepresented the views” of APD in a speech I made two years ago. In that 45-minute speech (in which the issue of race was never addressed), I made reference to APD one time, in the 12th minute, when I made a verbal disclaimer that I was not speaking on behalf of the department, that my views were not necessarily its views, and I was speaking only as an individual.
During a question-and-answer session following the speech, I spoke about how “supportive” my department had been. My intention was to convey how supportive the department had been about me being able to exercise my constitutional rights — not that it was supportive of the League, a fact that should have been evident when I made two references in the same speech about my inability to recruit my fellow officers into the League and how the majority of people I came into contact with on a daily basis (i.e., my co-workers) did not share my political views. This should have been obvious to anyone who viewed the speech in its entirety, but, then again, the city manager testified that he did not view the speech prior to firing me. Go figure.
In the last two years of my 20-year membership with the League of the South, I had many disagreements with the organization’s leadership over decisions made as well as the tone and content of much of individual members’ rhetoric. I became inactive in the League in August 2014. The League president, Michael Hill, testified to this fact during the hearing. Dr. Hill was a college professor of mine and has been a friend of mine for 20 years. He is one of the most courageous men I have ever known. However, he and I disagree on things. Much of the “evidence” the city used against me were personal opinions from other individuals. Much of it I had never seen, things with which I did not agree, and were not League policy. The strategy employed by the city was to revive McCarthyesque tactics of guilt-by-association and innuendo to justify ruining my livelihood.
I urge caution to anyone considering employment with the city of Anniston. If this is allowed to stand, no one targeted will be safe. This is an old totalitarian ploy, and the fact that it is succeeding in “The Land of the Free” ought to give us all chills.
The SPLC likes to play the guilt-by-association game in its smear campaigns by comparing any conservative group to the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis. I do not have the space to dismantle this tactic here, so I will just say the League is not the Klan. Its Core Beliefs Statement, which is League policy, is available for perusal. The League does not condone violence (except in self-defense) and does not advocate illegal activity.
I have thought a lot about what was different from the city’s investigation in 2009 and virtually the same situation in 2015. I was much more active and local in 2009-10 — giving multiple speeches and presentations in Anniston. I think the national atmosphere regarding police power in 2015 was partly to blame.
Primarily, though, I fault the different city leadership. Both the city manager and police chief referenced the “powder keg” they were sitting on and how outraged the “community” was. Yet, we know who the “community” really is. It is the same small handful of people who love a good protest. They are the same ones who every so often feel the need to march in the streets, hold press conferences, shout falsehoods and slander, hold signs and race-bait. It is the same local mob that has been calling the police department “racist” and “corrupt” for years. It is the same mob that was calling for Capt. Allen George’s head just a few years back. It is the same mob that held a press conference one week after one of our officers was killed in 2011 to shout about how “corrupt” we were. But, this time, the city gave in to the mob. This time, the mob screamed loud enough and the city caved, thereby emboldening them for similar action in the future. How sad, Anniston. The mob now rules the city.
It has been an incredibly difficult time for me and my family. I have lost a 19-year vocation I dearly loved as well as a retirement I was hoping to help sustain my wife and I in our old age. I have been unsuccessful in my many attempts at finding a police job, and I have no doubt the primary reason is the smearing of my reputation performed by the city.
Since I was a teenager, I have been working and studying toward police work. It is all I have ever known. Now I must face the fact I may have to find another way of supporting my family.
On the other hand, this trial of life has shown me who my real friends are. And I have had outpourings of love, encouragement and support from unexpected sources. True spiritual growth usually occurs in the valley rather than on the mountain. The measure of man is forged in the heat of fiery trials. We trust in God even when we do not initially understand it. We are obedient to His will. And He is still on His throne.
Josh Doggrell is a native of Anniston and former Anniston Police officer.