Future Pa. Police Chief in Email About Book-Drive Fundraiser: ‘N--gers Gotta Learn How to Read’

Thomas Burke 
WKBN screenshot

Thomas Burke, who is set to become the chief of the Farrell, Pa., Police Department on Jan. 1, gave a public apology on Monday for using the n-word in an email sent out earlier this year, WKBN reports

Burke, who is white, issued his formal apology on Monday in the rotunda of the city’s municipal building, the news station notes. “To everybody here, to everybody out there, my deepest … I cannot tell you, from the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry. I apologize deeply,” he said.


The email in question, which was related to a reading fundraiser, was sent in April and read, in part, “Good morning. Please click and review. Even a one dollar will be greatly appreciated. Them Sharon n—gers gotta learn how to read.”

Farrell Mayor Olive McKeithan acknowledged that Burke admitted to using the slur, but she stood behind him as chief.

“As the mayor of Farrell and as an African American, I stand behind Mr. Burke as police chief for the city of Farrell,” she said, according to the news station. 

“Until you get to know a man’s character, you can’t judge him by one off-the-cuff remark, or else we would have to judge all white people as equally guilty,” she added. “I have spoken with Mr. Burke and consider the matter as closed.”


Other residents, however, weren’t so quick to brush aside the comment. 

“I am concerned because there are many young blacks in Farrell who are already unruly, who are already disenfranchised,” Bishop Martha J. Sanders, a Farrell resident for the past 82 years, said. 


The Rev. Tiffany Holden of Redeemed Sanctuary Church echoed the bishop’s concern. “It is not OK for someone who is going to be head of this community to be allowed to say such words,” she said.

There is currently no disciplinary action pending against Burke, but the local NAACP chapter and leaders of the community are organizing a meeting to dicuss the issue.


“As the president, the NAACP has some things in place the city could use. That’s the dialogue we’re going to have. We can put things in place to stop things like this from happening,” Mercer County NAACP President Monica Gregory said. 

Read more at WKBN.

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