DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Two higher ranking Montgomery County Sheriff deputies are on paid administrative leave after a complaint accusing them and three other deputies of exchanging racially insensitive text messages.
Captain Tommy Flanders and Internal Affairs’s Michael Sollenberger are on leave pending the investigation. A sergeant at the dispatch center and two court security employees are also involved, but are still on the job.
The accusations came to light after Dayton Unit NAACP President Derrick Foward told deputies he received a complaint about the messages.
“These text messages, while some of them may be some joking going on back and forth, some of them are flat out rude and racist,” said Foward.
The messages were exchanged between November 2011 and January 2013.
Sheriff Phil Plummer says the messages had racial overtones and were considered inappropriate.
“These five individuals have taken this organization three steps backward and will be held accountable,” said Sheriff Plummer. “I will not tolerate racism in this department.”
The sheriff described the texts as “very disturbing racial text messages”. He says one of the five deputies made the racially charged comment.
Foward turned over documentation of the complaint to the sheriff’s office Tuesday. Sheriff Plummer says the investigation is in its early stages, but it is important to public safety that both Flanders and Sollenberger be put on leave.
Plummer says the text messages were exchanged during both on and off the clock hours, but he says that deputies are always considered on the clock representing the community.
The messages were sent from personal cell phones.
Flanders was a sergeant at the time of the text messages and Sollenberger was a detective under Flanders’ supervision. Both have since been promoted to their current positions.
Flanders is currently working as a jail administrator. Sollenberger is in Internal Affairs.
2 NEWS Investigates spoke with Captain Tom Flanders and his wife on the phone. He said the allegations are completely false and he has not been shown the text message transcript the sheriff is referring to. He and his wife said they are not racist and look forward to clearing his name. He has been with the sheriff’s office for 19 years.
Foward said the Dayton Unit NAACP will request an outside agency to perform an investigation. He said the complainant, who he would not identify, has made made that request.