Police are often accused of practicing racial bias. The head of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Florida has been relieved of duty after ordering one of her officers to take that bias to another level.
The Washington Post reports that during a staged traffic stop involving a murder suspect that the police wanted a photo and thumbprint from, but didn’t want to tip the suspect off, Capt. Penny Phelps issued the following order:
“We want it to look like you’re the grumpy old man,” a woman, whom the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to be Capt. Penny Phelps, says in a recording now made public. “You have nothing better to do than, you’re the white supremacist, you’re messing with the black guy who’s riding his bike.”
She added, “I just want you to be the neo-Nazi who’s picking on the black guy riding the bike.”
As a result, the sheriff’s office removed Phelps from the murder case last month and, after learning of multiple allegations of misconduct, have opened an internal investigation. Phelps was also relieved of her duties as commander of the major crimes and narcotics units.
It’s common for officers to go undercover in order to retrieve information that would otherwise be unattainable, but considering the contentious relationship between police and the black community, Phelps was purposely sowing seeds of mistrust that could yield disastrous consequences.
Spokesman Adam Linhardt declined to confirm if Phelps’s instructions were followed or go into detail about what penalties she is facing. Officials also have yet to determine if Phelps violated department policy and offered no explanation as to why the sheriff’s office waited so long to remove her from command. Despite all this, her $110,000 salary remains unchanged.
So does that mean she’s keeping her job?
“We have to have all the facts first,” Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay told the Miami Herald on Saturday, noting that Phelps has worked for the sheriff’s office for almost 20 years.