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Durham police: Claims of racial slurs on Facebook unsubstantiated

Posted December 12, 2008

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— Durham police internal investigators have not substantiated claims that three officers made racial slurs in comments on their personal Facebook pages shortly after President-elect Barack Obama's win Nov. 4, the department announced Friday.

One officer was disciplined for conduct unbecoming police department personnel, responsibility to respect the rights of others and use of discriminatory jokes and slurs.

Investigators cleared a second officer of any wrongdoing. The investigation into allegations against a third officer continues, but investigators said those claims have not been substantiated so far.

Police said the investigation, complaints and comments were the products of a politically charged environment after the presidential election.

"When people's emotions run high they tend to say things they that they probably would not say. And they tend to react to things a little bit differently than they would under normal circumstances," Deputy Chief R.H. Hodge said.

The department launched an internal investigation Nov. 7 after another officer complained about comments on the Facebook page of the officer who was disciplined. Police initially said the comments were posted on MySpace.

The comments included "[the officer] is preparing for his 2nd dan" and "[the officer] realizes that this is what we get for passing the 14th Amendment."

However, investigators determined that "dan" is a martial-arts term describing a level of proficiency. The officer was involved in martial arts.

Investigators said the officer also meant to refer to the 19th Amendment – which gives women the right to vote – instead of the 14th Amendment – which guarantees equal protection to all Americans and was used to secure the rights of freedmen after the Civil War. The officer changed his comment to reflect that, police said.

The officer mentioned the 19th Amendment to tease his fiancee, a first-time voter, in a pre-election discussion, investigators said.

The officer did violate department policy by identifying himself as a Durham police officer on Facebook, Hodge said.

"The officer has cooperated completely with our investigation and made his Facebook page available to the department throughout the investigation. He has since taken down the Web page," Chief Jose L. Lopez said.

The officer has apologized for any harm he inadvertently caused the department and community, police said. He agreed to share information about a personnel matter to dispel rumors and misinformation.

The Durham chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had demanded more information about the case be released, charging that public trust in the department has been hurt.

Fred Foster, the chapter's president, declined comment until he could examine the information released Friday.

"We take very seriously any activity by a police officer that has the potential to create a weakening of public confidence in this organization, and that is why we felt it was necessary to thoroughly investigate these allegations and take action where necessary," Lopez said.

The department will provide more training to officers about inappropriate Internet usage under the force's code of conduct, police said.

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  • endless Dec 12, 2008

    Yeah, thats what i thought, no one thinks he was really talking about the 19th amendment!

  • ncsouthernbelle Dec 12, 2008

    These officers should be able to express their opinions under the right to free speech. How would the NAACP fair if people scrutinized every comment or opinion their members expressed - even on their personal time? The NAACP lately seems to do nothing but promote racial divisiveness by trying to constantly stir up controversy and create the illusion of a crime in so many situations where a crime has not been committed. How many of your and my tax dollars have been wasted investigating these so called crimes to appease the NAACP? I get tired of my tax dollars being thrown away in such a manner. We have hungry and homeless people in our state. Let's redirect these wasted funds and put them to use where they can actually do our citizens some good.

  • futbalfantic Dec 12, 2008

    First off the NAACP said they think that with will lessen our belief in the DPD, but I think the Duke lax case did plenty of that.
    Secondly just because you have negetive thoughts toward one group of Americans does not mean that you will treat them any less that any other group

  • ctechic2004 Dec 12, 2008

    Of course the investigators would not find anything wrong. How many times do police officers get off for doing something against policy?

    For those who are so quick to judge the NAACP,why not go back and read the original article. The DPD are the first to bring this to the public's attention. If a police officer is prejudice-whether they are black or white-what makes any of you think that this doesn't carry over into their work performance. A person who is prejudice doesn't just turn off their feelings just because they are in the public's eye. They are prejudice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If they wrote nothing wrong then they shouldn't be punished, but if they did don't sugar coat it, punish them just like anybody else.

  • tmsfits Dec 12, 2008

    I didn't hear a peep out of the NAACP when Jesse Jackson commented on national television that Obama was a N and that he should have his nuts cut off...not one peep out of them. But they want the records produced to see what a LEO on the durham PD put on his my space page. Seems to me the NAACP promotes racism, nothing more. They should be disbanded as a hate group.

  • endless Dec 12, 2008

    Really, i ask again, does ANYONE really think he meant the 19th amendment? no, he meant the 14th. You really think Obama was elected because of the woman vote? Really?

  • endless Dec 12, 2008

    BTW - does anyone "really" believe he meant the 19th amendment instead of the 14th? really? really?

  • endless Dec 12, 2008

    The Durham PD released a story that they were investigating claims of a LEO publishing offensive commments and inferences of racial slurs. I as a citizen would want to know what those statements were to decide for myself. All the NAACP did was request to find out what the statements were as they had been removed. These are OUR police departments and they are sworn to serve and protect us. I want to make sure they do that! For ALL of us!

  • endless Dec 12, 2008

    Hey "Durhamighty" - read my other posting - i said the NAACP requested the info. Several posters on here have said or asked or implied that the NAACP "started" the investigation - which is not true. They requested more info on waht the Durham PD said was a "inference" of a racial slur.

    The NAACP requested more information and to find out what the supposed "inference" was because no one new. I think this is a reasonable request. As a result of the request, the Durham PD released the posting and we can all see it was a little stupid comment that makes little sense and is not something that erodes confidence in the police department.

  • ghimmy51 Dec 12, 2008

    Once again WRAL has labored mightily to produce headlines stirring social unrest based on nothing. It won't stop them though. There is at least another couple hundred words left in this non-story.

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