Court documents made public last week show “a pattern of highly disturbing racist and threatening Facebook messages” between Assistant Police Chief Todd Shaw and an unnamed Louisville Metropolitan Police Department recruit.
Shaw was the acting chief of police for the Prospect Police Department in Jefferson County, Kentucky at the time. Asst. Chief Shaw resigned in November after being suspended for the messages. Although no official reason is given (I bet you can figure it out), the recruit was not hired by the Louisville Metro Police.
The running dialog, which goes back to at least 2010, includes a question from the recruit in 2016 regarding a training assignment. He asks what the right thing to do would be if an officer comes upon three teenagers in a park smoking marijuana.
Assistant Chief Shaw’s response was: “Fuck the right thing. If black shoot them.” The recruit also questioned what should be done with the hypothetical murdered teens’ parents. In response, Shaw followed up by advising him: “If mom is hot then fuck her. If dad is hot then handcuff him and make him suck my dick. Unless daddy is black. Then shoot him.”
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Shaw also makes light of the shootings of unarmed black people. The recruit sent an image of a black man and woman with afros. Along with the picture, the recruit asked: “Does this hair make it look like I have a gun in my hand?” Shaw’s reply was, “To me, yes.”
In another exchange, the recruit jokes about buying all the houses around Assistant Chief Shaw’s and rent them to people through the “Section 8” program that provides government subsidies to low income residents. Shaw’s responses are “I like thugs sex anyways” and once again insinuating a desire for race-based violence: “I need target practice.”
Other messages, such as the one pictured to the right, joked about racial stereotypes and included negative references to Martin Luther King: “ML King was nothing but a raciast (sic) womanizer … but because someone shot him, I get a day off with pay each year.”
The messages from Shaw, who had been a police officer for just under thirty years, were exposed by Mike O’Connell, the Jefferson County Attorney, who was seeking evidence of whether he had interfered with an unrelated investigation of sexual abuse within the Metro Police Explorer Program (a youth indoctrination and recruitment program for the police) at the time.
It’s not clear from media reports what exactly the nature of the suspected interference was, except that it involved looking up the private information of someone using the police database on the behalf of Officer Kenneth Betts. Betts is one of two Louisville police officers currently accused of sexually abusing teen “explorers.” The parents of the teens involved have stated that Louisville police failed to properly document their complaints and also urged them to keep quiet about the abuse.
Officer Betts was allowed to resign from the LMPD after it was found he had “improper contact” with a 16 year old member of the program. He was subsequently hired as a sworn reserve officer in the city of Audubon Park and as a Code Enforcement Officer in Rolling Hills. Betts spent seven years as the assistant director of the Kentucky Law Enforcement Explorer Academy, a summer program in conjunction with the Boy Scouts, and also participated in a program that involved visiting sick children at hospitals. He was allowed to continue doing so even during the time that he was being investigated for sexual misconduct.
Shaw’s lawyer attempted to prevent the messages from being made public after local media submitted Open Records Act requests. Among other things, he argued that the messages were exchanged privately between Shaw and the recruit and a lot of the messages included the internet slang “LOL” after them. According to attorney Michael Burns they were “just playing.”
O’Connell responded, “Any individual who shares such blatant racist views should not be given a badge, a gun and a position of authority. This type of bias from one officer gives a black eye to the countless policemen and women who do great work in our community each day.” He has also indicated that prosecutors have dropped 24 cases that would have relied primarily on testimony from Assistant Chief Shaw, as a result of the messages.
Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman denied Shaw’s motion to keep the messages private stating, “The documents reveal opinions and prejudices that bring into question Shaw’s integrity as a law enforcement officer who has been entrusted to serve and protect all members of society.” She also noted that those concerns were “magnified by his rank.”
So yeah, this story has a little bit of everything: a high-ranking racist cop advising a recruit and telling him to shoot unarmed black people, improper use of police database searches to cover up for another cop who is sexually abusing teens, a department “investigation” of that sexual abuse that is really designed to cover it up, and of course both him and the sexual abuser being allowed to resign so they could keep their pensions and benefits and even get rehired by another department.
Otherwise know as just another day at the office for American police.
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