Sheriff’s Office major guilty of improper conduct for comments

Maj. Scott Landis found to have violated policy for comments and not reporting a serious complaint, but not for racially motivated speech.

Landis also was found to have not notified his supervisors of a serious complaint amid allegations that a proper investigation was not done.

A 74-page internal investigation obtained by this news organization determined that those and other terms were not used in a racially motivated way and that Landis did not place a “bounty” on a corrections officer.

The report signed by Sgt. David Parin determined that allegations of racism were listed as either “unfounded” or that there was “insufficient evidence” to find that Landis further violated professional rules of conduct.

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Bonnie Weyrauch said in an email that since the internal investigation just was completed, the office is “just now entering the disciplinary phase.”

The report comes on the heels of several personnel issues facing Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer. Those include a police investigation of and lawsuit against now Capt. Judith Sealey for excessive use of force for pepper-spraying an inmate who was in a seven-point harness and a deputy who allegedly used excessive force against a teen after the teen repeatedly called the deputy by a racial slur.

The complaint against Landis was made by Sgt. Eric Banks and corrections officer Jerrid Campbell, who alleged that Landis made offending statements during an April 20 meeting of Montgomery County Jail supervisors. Landis showed staff a memo about disparaging things Campbell said about working in the jail.

The complaint states that Landis allegedly said of Campbell, “If he doesn’t want to work here, he can go back to his thug life! I don’t care but he won’t quit so I guess I am gonna have to do it for him.”

This news organization was provided with recorded audio that matches those words and purportedly was said by Landis.

“His demeanor, and his actions to me resembled a bully,” Landis told investigators. “And that is what I call a bully.

“The term, that does not have a color to me. That doesn’t have a race, or anything.”

The allegation also claimed Landis said, “Thanks for keeping up on the sign-offs and keeping Little Hitler off my back. Not the little (sic) over here, the Little Hitler over there.”

The complaint also said Landis made reference to corrections officers wanting to “string him up” and “lynch” regarding possibly changing days off schedules. Banks — who is white — said the comments were racially insensitive and that he was offended by them.

Campbell said in a written statement that the word thug to him means the same as “n*****” and that he trusts “no one because of the continuous, blatant racism towards black (corrections officer) workers.”

Campbell had served a 10-day suspension for what the sheriff’s office determined was an inappropriate use of force against a jail inmate. Campbell also wrote that Landis was “a liar, a racist, and corrupt.”

Banks is one of two remaining defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Emily Evans, who alleged Banks slammed her head and face into a concrete floor at the jail after she was arrested for drunk driving.

The internal investigation quotes an email from Sgt. Mark Worley to Landis in which Worley said he gave Campbell some remedial training on use of force.

Worley said Campbell said he would stay out of the way and “get in and get out” and complained about the working conditions in the jail and that he was surprised an employee hasn’t been murdered there.

Parin wrote that he interviewed various jail personnel and that some of them didn’t consider the term “thug” to be racial — more like “bully” — and that they weren’t offended by it.

Sgt. Jay Vitali told investigators that Landis’ choice of language was inappropriate and unprofessional but he “didn’t necessarily” think it was racial.

The report mentions the supervisors’ meeting was recorded by Sgt. Ransley Creech, who said he did find the term “thug life” to have a racial undertone.

In a 2015 interview with NPR, Columbia University associate professor of English and comparative literature John McWhorter said “thug today is a nominally polite way of using the N-word. Many people suspect it, and they are correct.”

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