An Alabama police department has been disbanded after an officer sent a racist text message.
A screenshot of the leaked conversation released by AL.com shows an officer from the Vincent Police Department, identified as “752,” texting a joke about slavery to an unidentified recipient.
“What do y’all call a pregnant slave?” the joke reads. “BOGO. Buy one, get one free.”
Vincent Police Chief James Srygley, who leads the three-officer department located 45 miles from Birmingham, said soon after the text surfaced that an internal investigation had been conducted and that “appropriate disciplinary action has been taken.”
However, outraged community members demanded that more be done.
Two days after the text went public, an emergency city council meeting was called and a resolution was passed to disband the department entirely.
Both Srygley and Assistant Police Chief John L. Gross were suspended, while the third officer, Officer Lee Carden, submitted his resignation after the vote.
Mayor James Latimer said that the decision was “reversible” and temporary. “It gives us some breathing time and time to make sure we do the right thing,” he explained.
Until the end of the year, the city will rely on the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to respond to 9-1-1 calls.
The sheriff’s office condemned the officer’s action in a statement and assured that it will stand with the city to provide emergency law enforcement services for Vincent residents.
The mayor added that the city will use the time to recruit and rebuild its police force. He also said that the city council plans to hire a private firm to investigate the officers.
“There is a little more to the decision than just this one incident,” the mayor said, implying that the move to disband was not based solely on the text message.
Latimer denounced the officer who sent the text and said that the entire community is hurting. “We all deserve to be treated with respect, so I feel for everybody involved,” he said. “I hope we can have the strength to get through this and be better on the other side.”
Reverend Kenneth Dukes, president of the Shelby County branch of the NAACP, is optimistic about the future of Vincent for Black residents.
“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.”