The cop’s conduct highlights the realities of racial profiling in policing.
By Sheryl Estrada
The findings of an investigation made public this month exposed that a McIntosh County, Georgia, sheriff’s deputy lost his jobbecause he and a fellow deputy regularly exchanged racist Facebook messages revealing that they specifically targeted Black drivers at traffic stops.
Jeremy Owens and Brant Gaither served together as a special traffic unit, patrolling Interstate 95 in South Georgia, and apparently specifically targeted Black drivers.
Referring to their highwaypolicing, Owens said: “It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Might not get too many niggs.”
Gaither responded, “I hope we get a few but (expletive) if we don’t.”
A derogatory message included an image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“I have a dream. That one day my people will not act like animals,” said Gaither. Owens replied with”Lol. That’ll never happen.”
Brant Gaither (Facebook)
Other exchanges included jokes at the expense of domestic violence victims, as well as a joke involving a Black pregnancy test and fried chicken.
Sheriff Stephen D. Jessup said the posts were discovered in July when a deputy was issued Owens’ old computer thathad access to his Facebook account, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution(AJC),which released the results of its investigation last week. Records obtained show Gaither and Owens had worked together until Owens resigned to join the Darien Police Department in December.
Jessup saidGaither was terminated on July 25 for violating the department’s policies around immoral conduct and behavior unbecoming of a deputy.And the following day, Owens resigned from his position atthe Darien Police Department.
“It was just a joke, we all do it,” Gaither said when he found out he was to be fired.
According to state records obtained by the AJC, Owens and Gaither completed two hours of diversity training last October.
The case of the two deputies highlights the national problem of racial profiling in policing.Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in June it is “no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims” of racial profiling when sherefutedthe Court’s ruling on the case Utah v. Strieff.
A 5-3 opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, stated that if an officer makes an illegal stop and then discovers an arrest warrant, the stop and what is discovered would not be excluded in court. Sotomayor said this is in violation of the Fourth Amendment and will enableeven more racial profiling.
A growing list of professionals around the country, including law enforcement, journalists, insurance professionals and school officials, have been fired for racial comments on social media.
Also in Georgia, Jane Wood Allen, a teacher’s aide at an elementary school, was fired last week for Facebook posts referring to First Lady Michelle Obama as a”gorilla,” repeatedly, and a “disgrace to America!”
Wood’s termination followed public outcry and use of the hashtag #FireJaneWoodAllen on Facebook.