Virginia Beach police officer suing civic league president for defamation

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia Beach police officer is suing a civic league president he says accused him of racial profiling in an August traffic stop.

The lawsuit claims E. George Minns, president of the Seatack Community Civic League, made statements out of spite to hurt Officer Phillip Greenfield. It says Minns called repeatedly for the officer’s termination from the police department.

The suit says Officer Greenfield saw a car in the Atlantis Apartments area that he thought was suspicious and when he ran the license plates, they didn’t match the car on file in the DMV records. Greenfield stopped the car, learned the driver had just bought the car a few weeks prior, and ended the stop, the suit said.

Later, Minns started an email campaign to dozens of people claiming illegal racial profiling, saying Greenfield stopped the driver because he “personally wanted to know what (the driver) – a black man – was doing [sic] that new expensive black Mercedes Benz,” the lawsuit claims.

Greenfield’s attorney, Jim Theuer, said Greenfield has worked in the community more than 14 years.

“There was a right way for Mr. Minns to raise any concerns he might have had as a citizen, and there’s a wrong way, and what we’re suing him for is because he did it the wrong way… You can’t simply say whatever you want and then hide behind the First Amendment, because if you make false statements of fact that injure someone in his trade of profession that make it difficult for him to discharge his official duties and you do so knowingly, or with reckless disregard, that’s defamation,” Theuer said.

According to Theuer, the police department cleared his client of any wrongdoing.

“He’s invested in the interest of that community and so that makes it doubly troubling that someone would accuse him of engaging in this type of behavior,” he said.

The suit is asking for $600,000 in damages. WAVY News left several messages for Minns and stopped by his home, but has not heard from him yet.

Virginia Beach Police Department’s Office of Public Affairs was closed Tuesday.