Carroll Co. sheriff vows to address racial bias

NAACP had complained officials ignored concerns

July 20, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Responding to a local NAACP branch's complaint that allegations of racial discrimination at the Carroll County Detention Center have been swept aside, the county sheriff said yesterday that he has established workplace standards and has required diversity training to stamp out discrimination.

"What I have pledged to do is to address any allegations involving racial discrimination, and that could be through training and disciplinary process," said Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning, who is responsible for operations at the detention center. His office has investigated some complaints, but they are personnel matters that he cannot discuss, he said.

Tregoning's comments came a day after members of the Carroll branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People met with the county commissioners. Phyllis Hammond Black, the branch president, said her group has been frustrated by a lack of action, despite at least four meetings with the sheriff and the warden during the past three years to voice concerns about treatment of employees and inmates.

The allegations include the use of racial slurs, the demotion and reassignment of employees who complained about discrimination at the jail, and unequal treatment of inmates and staff for infractions.

As an elected official, Tregoning is not subject to the commissioners' authority. Still, the NAACP members asked the commissioners to look into the allegations and, if they find problems, to exercise authority through their administration of grants that require compliance with anti-discrimination laws.

The NAACP members accused the sheriff of failing to follow through on a pledge to "maintain a work environment free of adversity."

Black said, "They have not really tried to rectify what has been going on. We're at a loss."

Tregoning responded: "The allegations are not factual. ... Until the full truth is known, we have to go through this exercise."

He also said his office goes out of its way to recruit minority employees. The jail employs about 95 people. Detention center records show that yesterday, the jail population was 308 inmates - 227 of whom were white, 73 black and 8 Hispanic.

The sheriff said the NAACP's suggestion that grant money might be withheld "would be counterproductive to the citizens of Carroll County. I don't know why the NAACP would want to do this."

The commissioners might have a say in three grants, totaling about $250,000, in the sheriff's budget, said Ted Zaleski, the county's deputy director of management and budget. One of those is under the Violence Against Women Act, for a position to serve orders in domestic violence cases, and another funds a position in a program to mediate juvenile cases. The third grant, for the child support enforcement unit, which locates absent parents, includes county matching funds of $91,274, according to budget documents.

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