City officials in Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday evening released the full, unredacted content of racially charged and religiously insensitive e-mails sent by the city’s former court clerk as well as two former supervisors in the police department.
The e-mails, released to The Washington Post in response to a public-records request, were sent and received by Mary Ann Twitty, who was Ferguson’s court clerk, as well as former Ferguson police captain Rick Henke and former police sergeant William Mudd. All three were removed from their jobs after the Department of Justice discovered the e-mails, which prompted an internal investigation by city officials. The unredacted versions show for the first time which employee sent which e-mails.
None of the three has spoken publicly since losing their jobs, and neither Twitty nor Henke could be reached for comment on Thursday. Mudd declined to comment through a family member.
These e-mails were among the evidence presented by the Justice Department in a report released this year that concluded that racism pervaded the Ferguson Police Department. The report cited an analysis of those ticketed and arrested as well as anecdotal evidence about when and why Ferguson police officers use force on residents.
The e-mails — all sent between 2008 and 2011 — are primarily e-mail forwards containing insensitive and offensive jokes. One of the e-mails, sent by Twitty to both men as well as a third recipient with the subject line “Insensitive One Liners,” included the lines: “There’s a new Muslim clothing shop that opened in our shopping center, but they threw me out after I asked if I could look at some of the bomber jackets.”
Several of the e-mails focus on President Obama, and the majority of them speak disparagingly of him or minorities more broadly.
In a message dated Tuesday, April 19, 2011, Twitty forwarded a message titled “Very Rare Photo” that included an image of former president Ronald Reagan feeding a baby monkey. Beneath the photo is the caption: “Rare photo of Ronald Reagan babysitting Barack Obama in early 1962.”
Another e-mail Twitty sent both men on March 1, 2010, included a short story titled “Leroy’s last child support payment.”
In an e-mail that Mudd forwarded to Twitty — which she then forwarded to others — in May 2011, the body of the message declares:
“A black woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital [for] pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.'”
Another, sent by Mudd on June 7, 2011, included a photo of two dogs and compared them to welfare recipients.
In an e-mail written Nov. 14, 2008, Henke wrote to a recipient whose identity was redacted in the records, that “we shouldn’t worry about him being president for very long because what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
Federal, state and local officials immediately condemned the e-mails, the contents of some of which had been included in part or referenced in the DOJ report.
“The evidence of racial bias comes not only from statistics, but also from remarks made by police, city and court officials,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder said in March upon the report’s release. “A thorough examination of the records – including a large volume of work e-mails – shows a number of public servants expressing racist comments or gender discrimination; demonstrating grotesque views and images of African Americans in which they were seen as the ‘other,’ called ‘transient’ by public officials, and characterized as lacking personal responsibility.”
On the day that the DOJ released their report, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles (R) condemned the e-mails and insisted that they were not reflective of the culture within the Ferguson Police Department.
“Let me be clear, this type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Ferguson Police Department or in any department in the city of Ferguson,” Knowles said. “These actions taken by these individuals are in no way representative of the employees of the city of Ferguson.”
Knowles could be reached immediately for comment on the full content of the e-mails.
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French said the full content of the e-mails further prove that change is needed in Ferguson.
“What it shows is that a culture existed and was allowed to fester in Ferguson municipal government and Ferguson Police Department. What we have seen so far is a few voluntary resignations but not a full acceptance of responsibility for that culture that has been allowed to exist in that municipal government,” French told The Post on Thursday. “Even after the DOJ report . . . there is still a lot of work to be done and it still remains to be seen whether the people who remain in power will be the ones to make the change.”
Sari Horwitz contributed to this report