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Wyoming’s first Black sheriff fired white deputy after years of alleged racism, lawsuit alleges

A new federal lawsuit alleges that Wyoming’s first Black sheriff fired a white deputy after years of “racism, bigotry, and discrimination in the workplace” that “almost defies belief.”

Former Albany County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Jamin Johnson filed the lawsuit last week, which alleges his then-supervisor, Patrol Sergeant Christian Handley, forced him out of his position by fabricating “numerous disciplinary actions” against him.

These disciplinary actions were an inaccurate “sham,” “borne out of racism” and designed to force Johnson’s resignation, according to the lawsuit, which was obtained by Insider.

The lawsuit states that although Johnson had received positive performance evaluations throughout his career and had never been written up for any violation of policy before working with Handley, the disciplinary actions were used to “persuade the ACSO to give Mr. Johnson an ultimatum: he could demote himself to a position still under Mr. Handley’s direct supervision and control or leave the ACSO.”

“I felt completely defeated, like I didn’t have a voice and that the leadership structure that was in place couldn’t, wouldn’t hear me,” Johnson told Insider.

While the lawsuit does not detail what these disciplinary actions looked like as personnel files are confidential, Omeed Azmoudeh, one of Johnson’s lawyers, told Insider that they included “fabricating” situations that called into question Johnson’s “loyalty” to the ACSO and “trustworthiness.”

Both the lawsuit and Azmoudeh state that Johnson opted to leave the sheriff’s office because “it was the only tenable option.”

Years of racism had taken a toll on his mental health, per Azmoudeh, and given that Handley had control over Johnson’s schedule and assignments, performance reviews, and could make recommendations about demotions, promotions, and transfers, Johnson did not foresee the situation getting better.

“After years of awfulness and being beaten down, Jamin left,” Azmoudeh said. “He didn’t know he had recourse for these kind of claims, that the courts have to listen because federal law dictates that people should not be suffering this discrimination.”

“Now we get to take his case to the courts,” he added.

Johnson said that deciding to leave the ACSO was a “very tough decision for a number of reasons.”

Not only was he born in the area and raising his own family there, but he was a second generation law enforcement officer.

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