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Police vehicles line the street Wednesday, June 15, 2016, outside of the Hamilton County Jail.
some text Sgt. George Jackson works in the Hamilton County Jail.

GEORGE JACKSON STATEMENT

"The story published in the Times Free Press today (01/17/17) concerns an incident from November 2016 between myself and a coworker. I would consider her not only a colleague but a friend. Her mother has made breakfast for us on a couple of occasions during weekend tours of duty and I have accepted packages at my home for her.

Her and I have played jokes on several colleagues and one another. We have always been there for one another; to answer one another's questions and to help one another with any problem, professionally or personally, we have wanted to share with the other.

In November I made a comment that offended my friend and colleague. At the moment she did not tell me it offended her. Instead we laughed and when around other colleagues she retold the story and asked me to say it again. I did and again we all laughed. Both of those moments were captured on video.

Nonetheless, I later was informed I had offended her. While I was shocked that a friend would not come to me and address this personally, I can do nothing about that. However, I can address my actions and change them. We are all held to a standard of professionalism. The Sheriff has met with me and clearly laid out his expectation of professional standards.

I am thankful for all the officers (African American, Hispanic, Caucasian) that testified to my character, and to the humor myself and Ms. White have shared with one another and others. This was left out of the Times Free Press article. Those officers see us on a daily basis and not an isolated incident.

I have since met with Ms. White and apologized. We see one another on a regular basis and are cordial. She remains someone that I respect and would do anything in my ability to assist. Her and her family remain in our family's prayers as she has said the same to me. I hope in time we can once again have the professional friendship we once shared."

A white sergeant with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office twice used a racial slur while talking to a black deputy in November, records show.

Sgt. George Jackson, who works in the Hamilton County Jail, received a three-day unpaid suspension and must undergo on-the-job counseling for his remarks, which violated the department's code of conduct.

On the morning of Nov. 14, Jackson was walking into the jail with Deputy Jessica White. The two have worked together for several years, records show.

That morning, White told Jackson she'd seen him driving into work and was worried about him because he was swerving on the road. As they talked, she asked if he kept full insurance on his car.

He told her that he did, "just in case a —— " like her hit his car and had no insurance.

Jackson later said he meant the comment as a joke and did not intend to offend White. White said she immediately wanted to file a grievance against Jackson, so she went to the jail's central control room and asked about the process.

She had just started to describe what happened to the four men in the control room when Jackson walked in, so she asked him to share what he'd said. He then repeated his comment and the racial slur, records show.

Video of the incident shows people in the room laughing, according to an internal affairs investigation. Two of the men said they thought White genuinely found Jackson's comment funny. Two others said she seemed offended and only offered a nervous laugh.

All agreed co-workers in the jail often banter and sometimes use off-color words during that banter, although they found the use of the racial slur unusual.

Sheriff Jim Hammond said he decided the three-day suspension and counseling was appropriate discipline for Jackson after listening to several officers — black and white — testify that Jackson and White's working relationship was based on tit-for-tat insults.

"They'd been partnering up for a long time and had pushed the limits — both of them — in terms of how they respected each other," Hammond said. "He carried it to a point where she got offended, so we had to discipline him.... It's not appropriate and I won't allow it to go on, that's why I took the steps I did, but it did not raise to the level where I would do anything more severe on the first time."

Jackson said in a statement to the Times Free Press on Tuesday that he considers White to be both a friend and colleague. He apologized to her when he realized she was offended, he said. 

"We see one another on a regular basis and are cordial," he said. "She remains someone that I respect and would do anything in my ability to assist. Her and her family remain in our family's prayers as she has said the same to me.  I hope in time we can once again have the professional friendship we once shared."

Ash-Lee Henderson, an organizer with Concerned Citizens for Justice, labeled the three-day suspension a slap on the wrist and called for outside experts to come to the sheriff's office to provide training on racial equity.

"If police officers and correction officers would talk to fellow deputies like this, how would they talk to community members?" she said. "It's egregious that this situation happened, and we think it is a miscarriage of justice for him to get three days unpaid. There needs to be some actual change in the policies and procedures that allow this type of culture to exist in the corrections department."

At the close of the internal affairs investigation, Jackson was disciplined for unbecoming conduct and for a violation of the department's "respect between ranks" policy, which calls for 'due courtesy' among employees.

And while Jackson called the comment a joke that wasn't racially motivated, Henderson said there is no way to separate the slur from race.

"There is no time in our history when white folks have used that word without it being demeaning," she said. "Folks with privilege and power have used that word to talk about the intellectual inferiority of black people, to set them apart as an inferior class — there is no way to twist it and say, 'Oh ha ha it was a joke.' Especially in the context in which it was said. It was, 'Black people are inferior to us because they don't get insurance, and that is why I have to have insurance.'"

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas. Follow @ShellyBradbury.

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