Four police officers from Tennessee are being questioned in regard to racially charged social media posts. Two have been suspended, and twohavebeen decommissioned.
Two police officers from Memphis, Tennessee, were suspended after one of them on Thursday posted a photo on Snapchat and another shared the photo on Twitter. The picture in question shows the officer’s gun pointing at an emoji of a Black male running.
Interim Memphis Police Department Director Mike Rallings called the photo “disturbing.”
“The image is disgusting and will not be tolerated,” Rallings said at a press conference last week. He also said the situation is being investigated and that “the individuals responsible will be held accountable.”
The officers involved have not yet been identified publicly. The officer who reposted the original image claimed that he shared it out of disgust and confusion, allegedly writing, according to FOX13 Memphis, “So I came across this on my Snapchat from a fellow officer. I don’t know how to take it”
Police sources reported that the officer who posted the original photo faces possible termination, while the officer who reposted the photo will likely face a less severe punishment. An internal investigation is currently taking place.
According to the department’s social media policy, “employees must avoid any conduct which could compromise the integrity of the Department. This includes conduct related to materials posted on personal websites, social media, Twitter, Facebook etc.”
Also last week, in Nashville, Metro Officer Anthony Venable wasdecommissioned and may face possible termination for writing Facebook comments regarding the shooting of Philando Castile.
In an argument with a woman on a Facebook post, Venable said the officer who shot Castile would be “fine” because Castile”had a gun AND weed in [the] car.”
The woman then asked if Venable’s job involved “shooting someone 4 timeswhile continuing to keep your weapon drawn on someone while they bleed to death over a period of 10+ minutes”
Venable, who has been with the force for eight years, responded, “Yeah. I would have done 5.”
Castile was shot and killed last week by a police officer in Minnesota. During a traffic stop, he told the officer he was reaching for his wallet and disclosed that he was legally carrying a gun. But when he went to get his wallet the officer opened fire and shot Castile four times.
The department learned of the Facebook posts on Thursday at 3 p.m., and Venable was decommissioned pending the results of an investigation launched by the Office of Professional Accountability. He admitted to writing the posts but said they were meant to be sarcastic, according to a release.
“What he said does not in any way represent the men and women of this police department. It was a disservice to the city of Nashville, it was a disservice to this police department,” Chief Steve Anderson said. “It was a disservice to every individual officer out on the street. It’s something that can’t be tolerated. It’s something that we are going to take very seriously. He may have disqualified himself to be a police officer.”
Meanwhile, another Metro officer in Nashville, Christopher Taylor, has also been decommissioned after changing his Facebook profile picture to an image of Black Panther members holding guns.
“Officer Taylor has acknowledged the photo had been on his personal Facebook page, saying that the photo is associated with his strong historical interests,” the department wrote to a Fox 17 reporter who first discovered and reported the image, according to The Tennessean.
The Office of Professional Accountability is investigating this incident as well. Jack Byrd, an attorney who frequently represents officers in the Metro Nashville Police Department, said, “Other officers believe posting that picture was in extremely bad taste.”
Police officers have come under investigation in other parts of the country after questionable posts regarding racial events. In March, Lee Cyr, an officer in Ohio, was fired after calling the suicide of a Black Lives Matter activist “a happy ending” on Facebook.
In September, a police chief in North Carolina was forced to retire for calling Black Lives Matter “nothing more than an American born terrorist group.” Mike Halstead, who wrote the post, also blamed President Barack Obama for racial tensions in the country.
Last August, a St. Louis, Missouri, officer, Todd J. Bakula, was questioned after posting on Facebook, “I decided to spend my annual Michael Brown bonus on a nice relaxing bicycle ride trip to Defiance. Eating dinner now and staying at a bed and breakfast tonight.” Brown was shot and killed by a police officer two years ago. On the anniversary of Brown’s death, officers worked during protests and demonstrations in remembrance of Brown.