A Fort Worth officer has been placed on restricted duty after a sharing a meme on Facebook criticized by some community activists as a racist, the Fort Worth Police Department confirms.
Though the officer in question has not been publicly named, department spokesperson Officer Daniel Segura told NBC 5 on Friday, "his gun and badge have been taken away and he is unable to perform the duties of a police officer."
The department initially released a statement on Thursday night saying they were made aware of a "racially insensitive and grossly inappropriate Facebook post, which surfaced on an officer's personal profile." The Internal Affairs Unit has launched an investigation and the post has been removed, the department says.
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At a press conference Friday held by United My Justice, group vice-president Cecil Collier said the meme shows a Black man laying in a casket.
"And under that, the caption reads…'this is what happens when you resist the police or resist arrest' or whatever. To go along with that caption, why couldn’t there have been a different color person in that casket? Who are you sending your message to?" Collier questioned. "Everybody has some type of bias. Everybody has some type of prejudice, but this is straight-up racism."
Group founder Donnell Ballard said they chose to hold the press conference outside Fort Worth City Hall to send a message to city leaders including Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, City Manager David Cooke and council members.
"No, we’re going to take this lightly," Ballard said. "What we’re saying is, either you get him off the force or it’s going to be hell to pay. We’re not saying this in a threatening way. We’re saying today is, we’re not going to continue to allow this police officer to sit on the force and continue to say what he says."
Outside of the police headquarters, Rev. Michael Bell with the Greater St. Stephen Baptist Church on East Berry Street held his own press conference and was joined by other community activists. They say current Fort Worth police officers who 'liked' or 'loved' the post need to be investigated, as well.
"I'm talking about Mayor Betsy Price, I’m talking about David Cooke, and the city council, all of them, if they do not adequately and appropriately address this, then we have no choice in our response. None," Rev. Bell said.
The Fort Worth Police Department went on to say in their initial press release, every officer is held to a "very high standard."
"Any comment, post, or any communication which is racially insensitive and unprofessional will not be condoned in any matter. Our department will continue to hold accountable those who do not meet that standard," the statement reads.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price released the following statement to NBC 5 on Friday regarding the matter:
“This is a pitiful example of what it looks like when an officer fails to uphold the standards of decency, respect, and sensitivity that FWPD officers are hired to exemplify. Resisting arrest is not a license to kill. End of story. I am quite frankly appalled by the post and the image. To that end, I support the thorough investigation that has begun by Internal Affairs. We must ensure the appropriate people are held responsible for their actions. Trust between our police and the community is critical for the well-being of all of our residents. It’s really disheartening when the actions of any individual, especially a City employee, seemingly unravel the hard work that we, as a community are committed to doing.”