An investigation into inappropriate racial comments among staff members is underway at the Vigo County Jail, Sheriff John Plasse confirmed today.
A report was filed today with jail officials about a conversation among three jail staff members in which one staffer reportedly made inappropriate racial comments.
“It's an ongoing investigation, and we hope it wraps up soon,” Plasse said. “We are looking for video or audio recordings of the conversation.”
Plasse said two of the conversation participants are white while another is of mixed race. He did not reveal what comments were alleged.
Any disciplinary action could range from written reprimand to a suspension or termination, he said.
“The repercussion depends on the comments and the context,” Plasse said.
The three employees are correctional officers employed at the will of the sheriff, unlike merit deputies who are hired by and who face disciplinary action through a merit board.
The sheriff also confirmed that a jail correctional officer received a five-day suspension in June after she pointed a loaded firearm at another officer.
Plasse said jail employee Danika Mitchell has already served the suspension and returned to work.
The incident occurred June 16 just after midnight while Mitchell and other correctional officers were in a parking lot outside the jail.
Plasse said Mitchell had been issued a department-owned weapon as part of her duties. At one point while officers were gathering in the parking lot, a friendly foot race competition occurred.
Mitchell placed her firearm in the holster of another jailer so she could run in the race, Plasse said, reading from an investigative report of the incident.
After Mitchell lost the race, Plasse said, some joking comments were made. Mitchell retrieved her weapon from the other employee, and pointed it at another employee, who questioned why she was pointing the gun at him.
She then put the gun back in her holster.
“Basically, she said 'Do it again and I'll draw on you,'” Plasse said.
The comment was not taken as intimidating or threatening, he said.
The suspension form given to Mitchell says she was warned that another violation could lead to termination of employment. Mitchell had previously received three unrelated written reprimands dealing with violations of various jail policies.
Plasse said some correctional officers are authorized to wear a gun on duty for specific duties. Those instances are for court duty, transporting inmates and during perimeter checks of the building.
All jailers who are authorized to carry a gun must qualify at the range.
Plasse said not all jail officers are qualified, especially since some shifts do not have court duty.
Mitchell remains qualified to carry a firearm when appropriate for her duties, he said.
Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.