The Sheriff’s office in Jacksonville, Florida, has launched an internal investigation looking into accusations that one of its sergeants had been tweeting racially insensitive comments. An account tied to Sgt. Douglas Howell, one of the city’s gang task force, allegedly made several derogatory posts about anti-racism efforts, Mexican people, and the LGBTQ+ community, according to First Coast News. The outlet points out the Twitter account was locked soon after the story was published.
One tweet from 2013 claimed that “America’s Three Biggest Problems” are “Marijuana Abuse, Marijuana Abuse, and Black people.” Another that News4Jax uncovered claimed an appearance by Boy and Girl Scouts at the Pride parade was “sick and demented.” The third tweet responding to a story titled “White Mexicans have had a role to play in white supremacy” says: ”There are different colored Mexicans?? (Inserts Sarcasm).”
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says officers are free to express themselves on social media as long as the content of what they post does not interfere with their work or violate the office’s social media policy. However, a violation of that policy would be “engaging in speech in any form…that ridicules, maligns, disparages, or otherwise expresses bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals.” Jacksonville Sheriff Pat Ivey said the department is looking into the Twitter account allegedly tied to Howell and the legitimacy of the posts.
From First Coast News:
“I have asked that our Internal Affairs Unit look into these allegations. Detectives have begun working in their attempts to verify whether these posts are legitimate and, most important, determine whether the individual responsible for the posts may be a JSO employee.”
If these tweets are found to be Howell’s, he could be suspended and fired. Both sheriff candidates, Democrat Lakeshia Burton and Republican T.K. Waters have publicly denounced the tweets. Burton, in particular, about her three sons.
“I was appalled,” Burton told News4JAX on Tuesday. “As a mother, a Black woman with three sons, I automatically thought that is not the officer I would want my sons to encounter. But, in reality, the police officer has a right to a fair and impartial investigation to determine whether this complaint is legitimate. Obviously, an investigation will be done, and if he’s found to have done the post, he should be held accountable.”