A veteran Detroit police officer has been demoted and reassigned after posting a Snapchat video showing a black woman whose car he had just impounded walking home alone while he and another officer make derogatory remarks about her to each other in the background.
Meanwhile, pre-made captions that say “What black girl magic looks like” and “celebrating Black History Month” appear at the bottom.
The officer who created the video was identified as Gary Steele. He and his partner had pulled the woman over on Tuesday night because her registration had expired, police said. The officers were going to have her vehicle towed.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig told reporters at a news conference Thursday that body camera footage had shown that there was an offer — from either Steele or his partner — to escort her home. The woman refused, Craig said.
“She gets to do that, but we get to make sure she gets safely home,” Craig said. “But then to put up this insensitive post makes me angry.”
The Snapchat video, which was first published by ABC affiliate WXYZ, shows the woman walking away down a snow-covered street.
“Priceless,” one of the officers says.
“Walk of shame,” the other responds.
“In the cold,” the first one says again. Later one of the two says, “Bye, Felicia.”
The temperature low on Tuesday was 2 degrees in Detroit, according to AccuWeather.
Craig said that Steele, an 18-year veteran of the police department, had been demoted from corporal to officer.
“I’m not troubled, not disappointed; I am angry,” Craig said. “To make the reference to Black History Month is even more problematic.”
Craig said that the department was continuing to look into the incident and that Steele’s partner was also being investigated. Steele did not return a request for comment sent to his LinkedIn profile.
The woman whom the police had stopped was identified by local news outlets as Ariel Moore.
“What they put on there, that’s racist,” her mother, Monique Mobley, told WXYZ. “They demeaned my child for no reason.”
Moore told the outlet she was shocked.
Steele has had issues with the law himself. In 2008, he was charged with attacking an ex-girlfriend and firing a gun near her head, according to the Detroit News. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was able to keep his job at the police department, the newspaper reported.
“His history is troubling,” Craig said. “There’s a pattern, and I’m concerned about that pattern.”
He added: “He’s been a part of the force for 18½ years, who we expect to know better. This is a person who trains new officers.”
Craig said the officer could be suspended or fired. He said he called Moore’s mother to express his concerns about the way her daughter was treated. The department would pay the fee for towing her car, he said.
Another white Detroit police officer made a Snapchat post widely interpreted as racist last year. The video showed him in uniform with the text, “Another night to rangel [sic] up these zoo animals.” That officer, who was still on a probationary period at work, was fired.