The Montgomery County Sheriff’s office is investigating a claim about a deputy ordering a Riverside woman to stop breastfeeding in public while inside the county’s Job & Family Services building.
Alainna Nichols said the deputy told her she could not breastfeed while she was in the lobby of the county building, 1111 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd., Friday afternoon. The mother of two sons was waiting for boyfriend Jonathan Nilson to return from an errand.
“I was breastfeeding my 5-month-old son, and I had a toddler there with me who was running around. Within 10 seconds, (the deputy) started shouting at me from across the room,” Nichols said. She added that the deputy told her, “you can’t do that here,” and “you need to cover that up or take it to the bathroom.”
Nichols said, “I thought he was a security guard. I didn’t realize he was a sheriff’s deputy at the time.”
Nichols also claimed that the deputy told her that it was illegal for her to breastfeed in a public place and told her to leave and find a private place.
“Is that a rule of the building that you cannot breastfeed in here?” Nichols said she asked the deputy. “He said, ‘Yes.’ ”
She said she asked for the deputy to show her where the rule about breastfeeding was posted in the building, then said the deputy said, “It’s illegal.”
Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Rob Streck said mothers are allowed to breastfeed their children in the county’s building.
The Ohio Revised Code states, “A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accommodation wherein the mother otherwise is permitted.”
Streck said the sheriff’s office is investigating the complaint that Nichols and Nilson filed Friday against the deputy he identified as D. Ramey.
“The job center received several complaints on the mother, so our deputy responded and talked to (Nichols and Nilson). Because of her allegations, we started an investigation to make sure that (the deputy) didn’t violate any policies or procedures,” Streck said.
Nichols said she doesn’t believe anyone complained to the deputy because few people were around at the time she started breastfeeding, and she didn’t hear anyone complain.
“She didn’t do anything wrong,” Streck said of Nichols.
When Nilson returned to the lobby, he found out what happened to Nichols and confronted the deputy.
Nilson claimed the deputy tried to show him some information he looked up online on his cell phone about public indecency. “He tried to show me that and tell me that’s why she couldn’t breastfeed in the job center. Because it was indecent exposure or public indecency,” Nilson said. “I laughed and said, that’s not breastfeeding laws.”
Nilson added that the deputy continued to tell them that Nichols had to take their son to the bathroom or put a blanket over his head.
“My baby doesn’t eat with a blanket over his head nor will I have him eat in the restroom. I don’t think you take your lunch in the restroom and eat it with a blanket over your head,” Nilson said.
Nilson said he tried to end the conversation with the deputy, but the deputy ordered him and Nichols to show identification for the purpose of seeing if they had any warrants.
Nilson said they were allowed to leave the building after the deputy ran the background check. They later filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office.
Streck said the claim about Nilson and Nichols being asked to show identification will be a part of the internal investigation of the deputy’s actions.
Streck also said that all deputies and security officers assigned to public buildings will have training this week about what the law says about breastfeeding.