Just days after a Pennsylvania cop was fired for using the N-word on social media, two Georgia officers have been fired for offering even more evidence of racism's presence among law enforcement officers.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that two white officers in Georgia were fired after an internal affairs investigation revealed their racist and sexist Facebook posts, one of which even described them targeting black motorists. Both men had reportedly completed two hours of diversity training last October.
Brant Gaither, a McIntosh County sheriff’s deputy, reportedly exchanged troubling Facebook messages with Darien police officer Jeremy Owens, who previously worked in the sheriff's office with Gaither. The content of those messages, according to Chief Deputy George Trexler, "was highly racist, misogynist, and offensive."
The two officers allegedly joked about "colored people" and used the N-word. One post from Gaither showed a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. with the words, "I have a dream that one day my people will not act like animals." To that, Owens replied, "Lol. That'll never happen." In another exchange, the officers talking about how they hoped to target black drivers. Talking about policing highways, Owens wrote, "It's supposed to rain tomorrow. Might not get too many niggs." Gaither responded, "I hope we get a few but [expletive] if we don't."
Messages between the two also made jokes about domestic violence against women. One post from the officers is vaguely described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as "an offensive joke about a black pregnancy test and fried chicken."
When confronted about the posts, Gaither reportedly admitted it was a "stupid mistake" but defended himself by saying, "It was just a joke, we all do it." But Sheriff Stephen D. Jessup said the comments were "total racism" and that "there is no joke about something like that. Period."
The posts were discovered earlier in July after a deputy was issued Owens' old computer, which still had access to his Facebook account and therefore the racist messages. Jessup said that he does "not tolerate that in my department," adding that he wanted "to throw up" when he first saw the posts. Jessup claims he had no idea about the officers targeting black drivers and that he treats everyone fairly. Gaither was fired on July 25 for "immoral conduct and behavior unbecoming a deputy." The next day, Owens resigned from his position.
Despite the two officers' dismissal and resignation, the problems in the sheriff's office might be deeper than these two officers. Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights is preparing a formal request for the Department of Justice to investigate the McIntosh County sheriff's office. "This case goes deeper than two officers caught using racist language on their personal social media pages," she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Noting the messages about trying to "get" black motorists, Geraghty added, "Our investigation to date suggests that this may be the tip of the iceberg."