Chair Carter statement on alleged discriminatory treatment of employees at jail
As the members of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners, we are appalled and angered that several Ramsey County employees of color were allegedly prevented from performing their professional responsibilities during the transport and detention of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin while he was held at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center. We stand united in apologizing to the employees involved, and also in commending them for speaking up to demand the professional respect and human dignity they are due.
We call on Sheriff Fletcher to swiftly address the offenses alleged, and to take all steps necessary to ensure the professional, respectful and equitable service delivery expected by - and for - all of Ramsey County. Additionally, the Board of Commissioners recognizes that this moment - as unfortunately now one in a series of concerning events - highlights the need for systemic changes in the manner in which the Sheriff’s Office is required to manage its operation.
As an independently elected official, the Ramsey County Sheriff is directly accountable to Ramsey County voters, and does not take direction from the Board of Commissioners or the County Manager. Even so, with the full power of this body, the Board will pursue transparency, accountability and redress. Immediately upon learning of the allegations made by our employees, an employment investigation was initiated by the County Manager. We can make no further comment about this in-process investigation.
The Board of Commissioners has long committed to and continues working with our employees and community stakeholders to foster a culture that does not tolerate discrimination or racialized acts in our county and community. As actions such as those alleged here occur, together we will call them out and do our part to root them out, as is necessary to achieve our vision of a vibrant community where all our valued and thrive. We also recognize that, while the immediate focus must be on the Sheriff’s Office, our collective efforts must encompass every area of our organization if we are to truly become a place in which all are valued and thrive.
Knowing that our actions will speak louder than our words, we will dedicate time during our board meeting to discuss further steps that we must take on behalf of our organization and community. The status quo should have never been, and is absolutely not now, acceptable.
Toni Carter, Chair of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners
Watch the video of the full board discussion from June 23, 2020 (begins at 55:00)
Following the meeting, the board chair directed the County Manager to begin executing against the actions below and to update the County Board on a regular basis:
- This first area of action requires an initial conversation with the MN Department of Human Rights that has not yet occurred: Recognizing that the media is reporting that there is a civil rights complaint regarding the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office already in front of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Ramsey County leadership now requests that the Human Rights Department conduct a broad review of Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office practices, policies and procedures, with the freedom and to investigate other aspects of Ramsey County’s organization if needed to fully conduct that review. By formally requesting this review and willingly partnering to ensure it moves forward, we will seek to root out inequitable practices and address past missteps in the most transparent and accountable way possible for this public organization.
- The County Board requests that the Sheriff immediately repurpose a vacant position, under the title of Trust and Accountability Officer, who will be hired to serve as a direct report to the Deputy County Manager within the Safety and Justice Service Team. This position will also work closely with the County’s Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer who reports directly to the County Manager. The Trust and Accountability Officer will ensure that the County Board’s vision, mission and goals are carried into and across the entire operation of the Sheriff’s Office, with the freedom and authority to identify to the Deputy County Manager areas in which inconsistencies in policy, practice or procedure exist. The Officer will then work with the Deputy County Manager and the broader community to create a public reporting mechanism by which the County Board is regularly updated on partnership and progress, instilling a proactive approach to preventing future instances from occurring such as the alleged incident we all read about this past weekend.
- The above actions demonstrate the County Board’s seriousness to changing the way in which one area of Ramsey County can operate outside of the County’s vision, mission, goals and values. However, to fully address this issue, a more significant structural change must be considered. The County Board will therefore be evaluating our Home Rule Charter and pertinent legislative statute to identify the appropriate process by which the community can reevaluate whether an elected or appointed Sheriff is most appropriate in providing transparent, accountable, effective and equitable public safety services across Ramsey County.