Racially-insensitive email jokes have cost a high-ranking Los Angeles County sheriff's official his job, as Tom Angel resigned from his position as the department's chief of staff Sunday.
The flap over emails, sent while Angel was an assistant police chief in Burbank, is the latest embarrassment for the office, and the first under new Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
"This incident is one that I find deeply troubling," McDonnell said in a news statement. "Chief Angel has offered his resignation, and I have accepted it. I thank him for his many years of service, and wish him and his family well."
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The emails made reference to derogatory stereotypes of blacks, Latinos, Muslims and others, and they were sent in 2012 and 2013 when Angel was the number two police official in Burbank, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Some of the emails contained strings of jokes that he had received and then forwarded.
McDonnell said despite the department's recent effort to fortify public trust, enhance internal and external accountability and transparency, the incident "reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do. I intend to turn this situation into a learning opportunity for all LASD personnel."
He said the department will also be assessing "existing policies and systems to ensure "accountability and enhancing cultural and ethnic sensitivity and professionalism among our personnel."
For example, the sheriff's department will be implementing a new system of random audits of the email accounts of department personnel.
"The law enforcement profession must and can demand the highest standards of professionalism, fairness and constitutional policing individually and collectively from its personnel," McConnell said. "We are only as effective as the relationships, credibility and trust we have with our community; this is a fundamental point that I and LASD personnel take very seriously."
The chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors praised the department, and the chief deputy's decision.
"Sheriff McDonnell has done an admirable job of steering the department in the right directions with necessary reforms," Hilda Solis said in a statement. "We must move forward and strive for a law enforcement work culture that values diversity and promotes tolerance."
Angel's resignation comes on the same day that the Greater Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for him to exit the department, involuntarily if necessary.
"Describing these bigoted emails as 'jokes' does not excuse their content or explain why a high-rankling member of law enforcement holds such negative views of the very community he is sworn to serve and protect," according to a statement from Haroon Manjlai, public affairs coordinator for CAIR-LA. "Such biased views may have impacted his ability to carry out his duties in the past."
On February 10, former Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty to lying to federal Justice Department officials investigating jail abuse; he awaits sentencing.
On April 6, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for similar crimes.
Copyright City News Service