Breaking News
More () »

Pierce County Jail faces accusations of sexism and racism in new lawsuit

The three highest-ranking Black women in the Pierce County Sheriffs department say they’ve endured a history of racial discrimination and harassment.

TACOMA, Wash. — Pierce County is facing another lawsuit over discrimination.

This time, the lawsuit was been filed by Lt. Charla James-Hutchison and Sergeants Dione Alexander and Sabrina Braswell-Bouyer, three Black female officers who work in the Pierce County Jail.

The lawsuit states that the Pierce County Sheriffs Department “have both participated in and ignored racial harassment and discrimination, as well as gender-based discrimination, and allowed the culture of animosity towards African Americans and women to grow and fester.”

The officers’ attorney, Meaghan M. Driscoll, said examples of the toxic environment are easy to find.

“Uses of the N-word in jail settings, uses of comments like Black protesters should be shot or run over. It’s really the top-down culture that’s being perpetuated and allowed to perpetuate within the sheriff's department,” she said.

According to statistics from Pierce County, only 12 Black women work for the Sheriff’s Department, which has a workforce of 689.

>> Download KING 5's Roku and Amazon Fire apps to watch live newscasts and video on demand

Driscoll said this lawsuit wasn’t the first option for the officers. They attempted to notify their superiors of what was happening, but their complaints were ignored.

Driscoll said this was a common occurrence for the sheriff's department’s Black employees.

“When an African American employee files a complaint, it might sit there for a year before it’s even addressed or investigated," Driscoll said. "When a Caucasian employee files a complaint, it’s addressed immediately."

Driscoll says the officers want Pierce County to step in. 

“They want this environment to end, and there are ways that the county can end this discrimination that they haven’t done,” Driscoll said. “They can have additional training, they can have more supervision, they can investigate these complaints rather than sweeping them under the rug. There are a lot of things the county can and should do, and it’s their job.”

KING 5 reached out to the Pierce County Jail for a comment on the lawsuit, and was referred to the Prosecuting Attorney, who stated that the office doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

For a daily roundup of everything you need to know for across western Washingtonsign up for our 5 Things to Know email newsletter.

Before You Leave, Check This Out