Former Albany County Sheriff’s Deputy Sues For Racial Discrimination

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Albany County sheriff’s deputy is suing a sergeant in the department for racial discrimination, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

According to court documents, Jamin Johnson worked for the department for 10 years, from 2007 to 2017. During that time, he alleges that Sgt. Christian Handley, his supervisor, “relentlessly” demeaned Johnson with racial slurs and innuendos, even once in front of Johnson’s wife and children.

“The total of Mr. Handley’s racism, bigotry and discrimination almost defies belief,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges that at the end of 2016, Handley was promoted to patrol sergeant and “immediately orchestrated as sham disciplinary process” to force Johnson out of the department due to his race.

Handley fabricated numerous disciplinary actions against Johnson in rapid succession, the lawsuit said. He then persuaded the department to give Johnson an ultimatum: Johnson could demote himself to a position still under Handley or leave the department.

On Aug. 2, 2017, Johnson resigned.

“It was abundantly clear that continuing to work for Mr. Handley would have meant enduring more racism, more bigotry, and more discrimination, none of which was tolerable,” the lawsuit said.

In 2021, the department conducted an internal investigation, which substantiated Johnson’s claims of racism, the lawsuit said. It also alleged that the investigation showed Handley had received unfair preferential treatment throughout his employment at the department, which emboldened his misconduct.

According to court documents, Handley routinely referred to Johnson, the only Black officer in the department, as slurs such as “jigaboo” and the n-word. He once also questioned if Johnson had sex with a Black woman and when he said nothing, Handley said “That would be nasty. That would be like having sex with a dog.”

Johnson is asking for damages due to his lost income and benefits from having to resign, lost employment opportunities, psychological and emotional anguish, distress, pain and suffering and attorneys’ fees.

An earlier lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged Handley and another officer pressured sexual assault victims to recant their allegations. Handley and the other officer were removed as defendants in the lawsuit when a judge ruled they could not be held personally liable in the case. However, the judge also said the officers handled the case poorly.

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