The background information for this post is "old news" by internet standards as it hails back to April, 2008, and we are now seven months past that. But that background story is needed in order create a context for the new story.
A highway patrolman dressed in a handmade Ku Klux Klan-like outfit while on duty was suspended without pay, while another trooper who forwarded a cell phone photo of the trooper in the costume has been demoted, authorities said.
Craig Franklin, a 12-year veteran of the Ohio Highway Patrol, is pictured in the Jan. 20 photo with a white cone on his head, white paper mask with eye holes and a white cloth covering his shoulders, according to a highway patrol report.
Franklin is otherwise in trooper uniform. A handgun holster, a radio normally issued by the patrol and other police equipment can be seen in the photo, the report said.
Now, this officer and his photographer will be re-instated and allowed to again roam the streets and highways of Ohio, but their utility and credibility will definitely be attackable in Court and in cases that they file. Imagine court proceedings where the troopers are testifying and this picture being tossed on the screen for a jury to see? It is possible, definitely for purposes of impeachment!
Now for the present context that provided me the basis for this entry. A probationary police officer, Ben Murdoch, resigned because he became the target of investigation for posing at a Halloween party in his own residence with a friend who dressed as a KKK member. I could not find that photograph to post here, but have read about it and understand that it depicted Murdoch, who was dressed as an 80s rocker and a Hispanic friend dressed as a KKK member, both flashing a gesture that arguably supported nazis. A statement from Murdoch’s police chief:
Because he was considered a probationary employee for a year, Chief Chris Magnus could have terminated him for any reason. Rains said had Murdoch not been on probation, he would have recommended that he fight any discipline on the grounds of free speech and free association.
But Magnus said Thursday, "I believe any member of a police department engaged in the type of behavior depicted in these photographs would be showing deplorable judgment, a lack of maturity, and serious racial insensitivity. This kind of behavior does not reflect either the attitudes or judgment of other members of the Richmond PD, who take pride in serving a multiracial and multiethnic community."
The two key facts working against Murdoch were that he was a probationary employee and the gesture, even if it was done in "fun" included him in its participation rather than his mere presence in the photograph.
While I can understand the Chief’s statement, I do not think that a photograph taken at a private party demonstrates racism, especially given that it was not Murdoch dressed as the KKK member, and given that he was not in uniform at the time. One of many versions of this article is available for review here.
I do understand that the Chief is concerned about the Department and its public perception, as he should be. And, had Murdoch done something like the two Ohio troopers mentioned at the beginning of this article, I would definitely support his resignation or termination, just as I am opposed to the reinstatement of the two from Ohio. But from my point of view, the Richmond Police Department do not pay Murdoch to be subject to their every whim and availability 24/7… he was off work, at a private party, drinking alcohol (in the privacy of his residence with friends)…the Ohio troopers were on duty, wasting tax-payer funds (which is an angle that was not even considered from what I have read on that story).
So to summarize, I must shame the OH arbitrator for ordering the reinstatement of the troopers who took insensitive while supposedly working and the Chief for coming down so hard on Murdoch… in all walks of life, everyday, and in every way, we need to exercise Common Sense!