'Unacceptable behavior' prompts VA to suspend top cops at Atlanta Medical Center

Shaneka Jackson complained about sexual harassment from a supervisor two years ago. The VA just suspended him and two other high-ranking members of the Atlanta VA Medical Center police department.

Allegations of "unacceptable behavior" prompted the Veterans Administration to place three top police officers at the Atlanta VA Medical Center on paid suspension.

That behavior includes "allegations of sexual assault and harassment," according to a statement provided to the FOX 5 I-Team from VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes.

Police Chief Beverly Banks, Deputy Chief of Police Johnnie McCullor and a police major have been removed from duty pending the outcome of an investigation.

But the FOX 5 I-Team learned the VA’s internal affairs office actually investigated some of the same concerns two years ago, yet that person accused of sexual harassment — Deputy Chief McCullor — remained in his position.

Shaneka Jackson is that alleged victim.

"He would be standing behind me a lot and I’m like why is he always in here?" Jackson told the FOX 5 I-Team in her first public comments. "Doesn’t he have anything else to do?"

Atlanta VA Medical Center Deputy Chief of Police Johnne McCullor is suspended with pay while the VA investigates sexual harassment complaints.

A single mom and retired Air Force military police officer, Jackson applied to join the Atlanta VA Police Department in 2021.

But after working months in dispatch waiting for a slot to open for mandatory police academy training, she said she had to resign because the pandemic kept delaying the start of the class.

According to the EEO complaint she would eventually file with the VA, Jackson said Deputy Police Chief McCullor offered to help her get a job with the private security company the Atlanta VA also uses.

But it turned out to be an offer, she says in her complaint, that she was unaware it came with some sexual strings attached.

"I remember one day he asked me to come into his office," Jackson said. "He just told me I told you it would cost you."

According to that complaint, the deputy chief exposed himself and encouraged Jackson to take part in a sexual act.

"I’m like whoa, whoa, whoa like this is not something I’m going to do," Jackson told us. "I got out of his office so quick. All I remember is seeing him adjust his pants back and I got out of there and started crying hysterically."

Two friends confirmed to EEOC investigators that Jackson shared details with them shortly after the incident.

But Jackson said she didn’t file an official complaint immediately.

"I was fearful at the time because he had a lot of power," she said.

But then came a misdirected text in January 2022.

The text that Jackson said McCullor used to get her fired.

Thinking she was texting a friend, Jackson says she accidentally sent this to McCullor:
"Snakes only get so far."
In her complaint, she says McCullor went to her boss and asked that she be fired.

"I told them hey this man has been harassing me for the longest and y’all trying to fire me for him," Jackson explained.

She was ultimately demoted and transferred. When she failed to show up for work, the private security company fired her. They denied McCullor played any role in the decision.
Only after she was fired in April 2022 did Jackson file her complaint with the EEOC.
And when McCullor met with EEOC investigators, he denied every one of Jackson’s claims.

Some of the denials from Deputy Chief McCullor to EEO investigators.

The VA convinced an administrative judge to dismiss her complaint because it wasn’t filed in a timely manner and most of her allegations happened when she was not a VA employee. Jackson has filed an appeal.

But this is more than a she said/he said story. It’s also what the VA internal affairs investigation said.

A VA Internal Affairs investigation cast doubt on the deputy police chief's version of his encounters with a subordinate female officer. 

In July 2022, the VA’s Office of Senior Security Officer conducted its own investigation into Jackson’s claims.
The FOX 5 I-Team obtained this copy through the Freedom of Information Act.
After interviewing multiple witnesses, "it was repeated throughout interviews that (McCullor) had a romantic interest in Jackson."
The report said McCullor "admitted to Special Agents that he gave Jackson money, texted her outside of working hours… (because) he wanted to help Jackson as a single parent, a statement investigators find not credible."

And as far as Jackson’s allegation of McCullor exposing himself, "staff described him as vindictive, condescending, toxic, and as having a reputation as a ‘womanizer’… investigators did draw certain conclusions that would support Jackson’s reports as being accurate and truthful."

Yet for the next two years, McCullor remained deputy chief, until this month.

In March, the FOX 5 I-Team spotted Deputy Chief McCullor (R) along with Police Chief Banks (L) at a shooting range. 

After the FOX 5 I-Team reached out to the VA, the agency announced "immediate action to address the challenges in the Atlanta VA police department."

That includes sending a national team "to investigate the situation in the Atlanta police department, make recommendations related to these 3 individuals, and identify other changes that might be needed to improve the culture."

The VA also appointed an acting police chief and deputy chief.

"We are treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness and are moving aggressively to investigate them, and will take swift and appropriate action," said the VA statement.

The agency did not address our questions asking why it took two years to take those announced actions.

Reached by text, McCullor replied, "no interview or comment."

Chief Banks did not respond.

Here's the full statement from VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes in response to our questions about Jackson's two-year-old complaint:

Due to employee complaints and allegations of unacceptable behavior in the police department at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, including allegations of sexual assault and harassment, VA has detailed out the Chief of Police, Deputy Chief of Police, and Major (removing them from police duty and suspending authorities) pending the results of an investigation. 

VA does not tolerate sexual assault or harassment. We are treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness, are moving to aggressively investigate them, and will take swift and appropriate action. 

While this investigation progresses, VA is taking immediate action to address the challenges in the Atlanta VA police department, including: 

-        Sending in a national team – including VA’s Senior Security Officer – to investigate the situation in the Atlanta police department, make recommendations related to these 3 individuals, and identify other changes that might be needed to improve the culture.  

-         Immediately appointing a new leadership team in the Atlanta police department. We have appointed the chief of police for the VA Southeast Network (VISN 7) as acting police chief and appointed the deputy chief of police for the Houston VAMC as the acting deputy.  

-  Evaluating our policies and procedures to ensure that our Atlanta employees are held to the highest possible standards of conduct, in line with VA’s core values – and that when issues arise, they are acted upon and addressed immediately. 

Additionally, Kai Mentzer, the Medical Center Director at the Jackson, MS VA Medical Center, will be starting as the new Medical Center Director in Atlanta on June 3, 2024. He – along with other VA leadership – will be focused on optimizing operations and the culture at the VA facility in Atlanta, including within the police department.

As always, we are committed to ensuring a safe, welcoming, and harassment-free environment for Veterans and employees at VA. All VA employees are encouraged to take the White Ribbon VA pledge to never commit, excuse, or stay silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault, or domestic violence against others. We hold our employees to the highest possible standards of ethical action, and we will not tolerate anything less.  

We cannot say more at this time, because this is a pending investigation, but we will provide further updates as they become available.