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A Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center worker hit a young person under their watch several times, leaving their face swollen and bruised, according to a state investigation into a second case of physical abuse at the facility within a year.

The incident occurred in February, but the Department of Human Services recently published its investigation findings, determining yet again that "serious maltreatment" had occurred at the center.

The clash started when a staff person told young people in the juvenile detention center to go to their bedrooms and one person who was on the phone continued their call, according to DHS' report.

A staff member tried to take away the phone and the youth cursed and slapped the worker, the report states. The employee responded by hitting the young person in the face and head several times with their fists, leaving them with a swollen eye and visibly bruised head, investigators found.

Ramsey County immediately suspended the worker, who had "no further contact" with the victim, the investigative report states.

DHS took things a step further. They disqualified the staff person from any job involving direct contact or access to people receiving services from agencies or programs that require a DHS background study. That includes juvenile detention centers and various other settings, like child-care and adult day-care centers.

The investigative report does not name the employee, but notes the person started working at the facility in 2016 and had been trained on policies and procedures, including receiving a "policy review refresher" early this year. Staff is supposed to use the minimum amount of force necessary in responding to perceived threats and never use force as punishment, according to the facility's use-of-force policy.

The abuse was captured on video and audio recordings, and an investigator interviewed those involved and witnesses. Their report says a couple of other staff members quickly moved between the two, but the employee continued to swing at the youth "at times reaching over and around" the other staff members before realizing what they had done and leaving.

The staff person said they "reacted" and were unsure why they hit the young person, but "everything happened very quickly," the report states.

The Department of Corrections licenses the detention center and a spokesman for the department said they were "made aware by the facility immediately that the staff person was removed from the building and was being placed [on] administrative leave until the conclusion of the investigation. The DOC concluded our licensing investigation and determined no licensing violations occurred."

In a statement through spokesperson Rose Lindsay, Ramsey County said it cannot comment due to the confidential nature of human resource matters.

"Ramsey County is committed to maintaining a respectful and safe environment for employees and those in our care," the county said. "We take all maltreatment allegations seriously and will fully cooperate with any related investigations by our licensing authorities."

Second incident in a year

It is the second time DHS has issued a serious maltreatment finding for the Ramsey County facility within the calendar year. In both cases, DHS found the employee, not the facility, was responsible for the incident.

In October, the department found a staff member maltreated a juvenile by grabbing and forcing them to the floor, behavior a supervisor had called "way outside" the facility's use-of-force policy.

Following an exchange of words, the staffer grabbed the juvenile's T-shirt at the neck and forced them to the floor, getting on top of the young person and pushing them into the floor several times. The juvenile's head bounced up and down, hitting the floor twice, according to the DHS memo.

The juvenile was found unresponsive numerous times in the following days, sometimes with blood nearby. The employee was terminated.

The Ramsey County detention facility can hold 44 juveniles who are waiting for court appearances.

DHS publicly lists maltreatment investigation memorandums for 4 out of 15 Minnesota facilities licensed to provide children's residential detention services. The documents remain online for four years after they are posted.

Ramsey County's was the only facility with two such investigation memorandums, while Hennepin County, Northwestern Minnesota Juvenile Center in Bemidji, and Prairie Lakes Youth Programs-Captain's Academy in Willmar had one.