Fired officer wants county to pay for his defense in civil suit

Jerrid Campbell says county is retaliating against him by attempting to withhold payment for legal representation.

A dispute between a fired Montgomery County corrections officer and the county took another turn this week with the former officer saying the sheriff’s office is retaliating against him by refusing to pay for his defense in a civil lawsuit filed by an inmate.

Attorneys for the county argue that taxpayers shouldn’t have to provide legal defense for the fired officer, Jerrid Campbell, who was disciplined and referred for prosecution after a fight with former inmate Daryl Wallace, who later sued the county. Campbell is named in the lawsuit.

In a filing on Monday, Campbell’s attorney fired back against the county, alleging he was fired for complaining about discriminatory treatment of jail employees and inmates, and saying the county’s refusal to pay for his defense is retaliatory.

The court filings are in response to a lawsuit brought by Wallace, who alleges Campbell “viciously beat” him — using his handcuffs like brass knuckles — in a Sept. 28, 2015, jail fight caught on video.

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Both Campbell and the county argue that Wallace is not due any compensation. But in its filing, the county says if a judgment is made in Wallace’s favor, the county is “entitled to complete indemnity from Defendant Campbell, whose acts were the sole and proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries, if any.”

An internal investigation after the fight found Campbell broke departmental policy when he punched Wallace, and Campbell was suspended for 10 days. Records show the sheriff’s office referred the matter to city and county prosecutors, who declined to press charges.

Amid a slew of lawsuits alleging inmate mistreatment at the jail, Sheriff Phil Plummer has held the case up as an example of his department holding officers accountable for excessive force.

“We attempted to charge a current corrections officer for what we claimed to be a beating and charges weren’t taken,” Plummer said in February. “And that’s caused me internal problems also, but we try to do the right things. My people know if they break the law, they’re going to be held accountable.”

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In Monday’s filing, Campbell’s attorney said, “The Sheriff has, on other occasions, threatened not to provide representation, at his discretion, for other officer and/or employees who have been sued, if that officer would not agree to show him loyalty and conformance to the Sheriff’s program and agenda.”

Plummer did not return a call requesting comment.

Campbell alleges he was fired for speaking to the Dayton Daily News and other media outlets about allegations that female inmates are segregated by race at the county jail, and claiming the sheriff’s office fostered a hostile working environment toward black employees.

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“In retaliation for his complaints of race discrimination, Campbell was subject to harassment, unwarranted disciplinary actions, including suspension… and his employment was terminated on May 23, 2017,” Campbell’s attorney wrote.

The sheriff’s office is still reviewing the jail segregation allegations, but Campbell’s personnel file shows he was disciplined for talking to the media and fired for “unsubstantiated allegations” accusing the sheriff and his command staff of overt racism.

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