A tiny town in Alabama is without a police force today after the town council put its foot down and fired the entire department over racist texts published on social media.
The mayor of Vincent, Alabama, James D. Latimer, told NPR that first the police chief was suspended, then his assistant, and then the city council voted to dissolve the whole force. One remaining officer ended up resigning.
According to AL.com, the text exchange began when one officer, identified as “752,” wrote: “What do y’all call a pregnant slave?”
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A recipient of the text responded twice with “?” and then “??”
Officer “752” writes back with: “BOGO Buy one, get one free.”
“This has torn this community apart. It doesn’t matter what color we are as long as we do right by people," City Councilman Corey Abrams said during the council meeting.
When the racist text exchange was initially discovered, Police Chief James Srygley claimed that “appropriate disciplinary action” had been taken, AL.com reported.
But about two days later, Latimer announced that Srygley and his assistant chief, John L. Goss, were both suspended. Hours later, after the city council voted to disband the entire department, officer Lee Carden offered his resignation via text message, NPR reports.
Latimer confirmed to NPR that the decision to disband the force was temporary, adding: "It gives us some breathing time and time to make sure we do the right thing.”
Located in central Alabama, Vincent is about 30 miles southeast of Birmingham, has 1,980 residents, and the racial breakdown is 85.79% white and 12.27% Black.
Rev. Kenneth Dukes, who is the president of the Shelby County branch of the NAACP, told NPR he was inspired by the mutual cooperation around the toxic texts.
"I've been a civil rights activist for a long time, and I never experienced the power and magnitude of people coming together like that,” Dukes said.
"The Black community isn't just going to go back in the corner," Dukes said. "They're tired of being disrespected, so they'll continue to come together to speak out. I think the entire city of Vincent will improve and get better when every citizen stands together to speak out against racism, disrespect, and inequality."
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying it “condemns the actions” of the officers and is “currently handling all law enforcement emergency calls” in Vincent.
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