UPDATE at 11:15 p.m. Sunday, May 1, 2016: The high-ranking law enforcer in question has resigned. See the latest details at the bottom.
At least two prominent Los Angeles organizations are calling for the firing or resignation of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department chief of staff Tom Angel.
The Los Angeles Times recently unearthed racist emails forwarded by Angel while he was chief of police in Burbank about three years ago.
“I took my Biology exam last Friday,” one of the emails stated. “I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently 'Blacks' and 'Mexicans' were NOT the correct answers.”
Another email he forwarded was titled, “Muslims, gotta love em can't punish em…………?”
Sheriff Jim McDonnell, elected to clean up a troubled department rocked by federal indictments, called the matter “a shame” but has so far made no indication Angel would be disciplined or removed.
Angel told the Times he's of Mexican descent.
The ACLU of Southern California this week called for Angel to resign or be removed.
“The ACLU SoCal is deeply troubled by Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s reaction to news that his chief of staff, Tom Angel, sent out racist and sexist jokes on his work email account when Angel was with the Burbank Police Department. We feel that the only appropriate response is Angel’s resignation or dismissal,” said the organization's executive director, Hector Villagra.
“Sheriff McDonnell ran for office vowing to clean up a department plagued by decades of corruption, violence and impunity. He has pledged to seek out 'the right people with the right moral compass in hiring, promotions, training, mentoring and supervising our people.' Yet here, he has chosen to ignore behavior that is contrary to those goals,” he said.
The ACLU also took issue with Angel's contention that the emails were meant to be private. McDonnell has vowed to run a more transparent department.
“Even if we were to accept McDonnell’s excuse that these were just jokes, or Angel’s contention that his emails weren’t meant for public consumption, how can McDonnell justify keeping on an employee whose attitudes contradict the department’s efforts to tamp down the racial and ethnic biases that have long been a stain on law enforcement,” Villagra said.
The only choice for McDonnell, he said, was “to find a new chief of staff.”
The group Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles joined in the call for Angel's head.
“Mr. Angel appears to have circulated numerous emails that denigrated Muslims, blacks, Latinos, and women,” the organization said in a statement.
“Law enforcement officials are supposed to protect public safety and to uphold the public trust with integrity and fairness,” it stated. “It is absolutely unacceptable for any public official, much less a senior ranking member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department, to have disseminated racist, sexist and Islamophobic jokes that denigrate the very community members that law enforcement is supposed to serve.”
“It is imperative,” the group said, “that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department demonstrate a zero tolerance policy against bigotry and prejudice.”
UPDATE at 11:15 p.m. Sunday, May 1, 2016: McDonnell today announced that Angel offered his resignation and “I have accepted it.”
“Despite the sheriff’s department’s many recent efforts to fortify public trust and enhance internal and external accountability and transparency, this incident reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do,” McDonnell said.
The sheriff said his department would start implementing random audits of employee emails.
“We are only as effective as the relationships, credibility and trust we have with our community,” he said. “This is a fundamental point that I and LASD personnel take very seriously.”
The Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable said in a statement that it wants the department to disclose “the results of the audit[s] to help identify employees who demean and disparage minorities and Muslims.”