Gwinnett County

Gwinnett jail commander suing county to get job back claiming he was forced out over race

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A former Gwinnett County Jail commander is suing to get his job back after he said he was forced out because he is white.

Former Lt. Joe Buice said he got caught in the middle of a political racial war inside the department and should not have been forced out.

The county denies any wrongdoing as it responds to this just-filed federal lawsuit.

When first-term Sheriff Keybo Taylor took office, he made no secret of his intent on changing the makeup and attitudes inside his jail.

“It’s about changing the complete culture of this agency. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do,” Taylor told Channel 2′s Tony Thomas in a May 2021 interview. “We wanted to make sure it was more inline and representative of the community.”

Among his first moves: disband the so-called Rapid Response Team inside the jail. The group was at the center of several controversial confrontations with inmates, including one incident involving a wheelchair-bound man.


A deputy directly involved was fired by the previous sheriff, but Taylor went after one of the supervisors at the time – Lt. Joe Buice.

“I did as much as I could at my level,” Buice said in a previous interview.

Buice retired last year instead of being fired, but has now filed a federal lawsuit asking for back pay and his job back.

“None of the allegations brought against Mr. Buice for misconduct were true and were, in fact, pretexts for discrimination on the basis of race,” the lawsuit said.

The sheriff’s office responded Thursday with a statement, which said, in part:

“Race is not a factor in determining the employment, termination, or promotional advancement of employees within our agency.”

“I was pretty upset about it because this guy used techniques I taught him and he used them inappropriately,” Buice said.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages, back pay and specifically names the sheriff, deputy sheriff and county.