The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the 30-day suspension of an Indiana police officer, Jack Messer, for saying to a group of fellow officers during a conversation about public housing, "The biggest mistake the government made was giving those people civil rights." Messer was referring to African Americans, after roll call during a conversation about public housing. He was on duty at the time.
WAVE News reports:
Messer later called his remark "stupid," and testified that he was trying to state that African-Americans have equal rights but have been held back by welfare and government housing.
The NAPD conducted an internal investigation and cleared Messer of wrong doing, but the Police Merit Commission issued a complaint. It found that Messer's original statement caused offense to members of the community, raised suspicions of racism in the department and was conduct unbecoming an officer.
Messer was suspended for 30 days. He appealed his case to the Indiana Court of Appeals, claiming his statement was speech protected by the First Amendment.
Messer was a city councilman at the time he made the racist remark. After an unsuccessful run for New Albany mayor last year, he lost his seat. Safe to say he may have struggled with the black vote.
Many will argue that this comment was a harmless slip of the tongue that's been overblown. But, this month, the Trayvon Martin case — and, in particular, the police department's initial reluctance to pursue an investigation into the killing of an unarmed black teenager — puts the incident into perspective. Law enforcement officers' private, personal views about race become a serious matter when they inform decisions about the value of a life. What happens then is much more than just "stupid."
Read more at WAVE News.