An Alabama police officer has been fired for sharing racist memes, including one about Michelle Obama.
Talladega Police Officer Joel Husk was terminated Wednesday for violating the department’s social media and code of conduct policies, City Manager Patrick Bryant said.
Husk had posted several memes on his Facebook page, including one showing Obama and Melania Trump. “Fluent in Slovenian, English, French, Serbian, and German,” it said over Trump’s photo. Over Obama’s, it read: “Fluent in Ghetto.”
Bryant, the city manager, said statements that are “deemed to be biased or racially insensitive or derogatory” can affect the community’s trust in the police department and, when that happens, “we have to take action to correct it.”
“As public employees, and especially law enforcement officers, we have a standard of excellence to uphold,” Bryant told The Washington Post.
Husk, 37, who had been with the department for about two and a half years, had also shared a meme showing President Obama with the words: “Was Dallas a terrorist attack? Yes! Carried out by Obama’s own homegrown terrorist group!”
Another meme he shared depicted Klansmen carrying a Confederate flag. “The KKK is a hate group right? Isn’t it about time we start being honest in America . . . and admit that #blacklivesmatter is also a hate group?” it read.
Husk could not be reached for comment.
Since Donald Trump was elected president, a wave of racially and religiously motivated acts of intimidation, violence and harassment have swept across the country — from a middle school in Michigan and a high school in Pennsylvanian to universities in Texas and elsewhere.
On Saturday, an Episcopal church in Maryland was vandalized with the message: “Trump nation. Whites only.”
The next morning, in Indiana, the organist at an Episcopal church discovered a swastika, an anti-gay slur and “HEIL TRUMP” spray-painted on the outside walls.
In an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Trump said he was “so saddened to hear” people were harassing others in his name.
“And I say, ‘Stop it,’ ” Trump said in the interview, which was broadcast Sunday. “If it — if it helps, I will say this, and I will say it right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.’ ”
Days later, a Maryland high school student wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat was injured and taken to a hospital after a fight with a group of anti-Trump protesters who punched and kicked him.
The ugliness has also swept across social media and has even involved some community leaders.
The mayor in a tiny town in West Virginia resigned this week and the director of a government-funded nonprofit was removed from her position amid a nationwide uproar over a racist comment about the first lady.
Pamela Ramsey Taylor, who was director of the Clay County Development Corp., took to Facebook to comment on the upcoming shift to Melania Trump, writing: “It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.”
“Just made my day Pam,” Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling responded, according to news reports.
On Tuesday, Whaling, who had three years left in her term, submitted a letter of resignation.
Michelle Obama, who graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, has spoken in the past about being the target of racism.
In 2014, she urged high school seniors in Topeka, Kan., to help break down “old prejudices.”
“As you go forth, when you encounter folks who still hold the old prejudices because they’ve only been around folks like themselves, when you meet folks who think they know all the answers because they’ve never heard any other viewpoints, it’s up to you to help them see things differently,” she said.
The next year, she talked to graduates at Tuskegee University in Alabama about having been targeted.
“There was the first time I was on a magazine cover — it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge Afro and machine gun,” she said. “Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me?
“Or you might remember the onstage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a ‘terrorist fist jab.’ And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited ‘a little bit of uppity-ism.’ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s ‘cronies of color.’ Cable news once charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s Baby Mama.’ ”
She warned the graduates at the historically black university that people may not always see them for who they are.
“Instead they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world,” she said. “And my husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the ‘help’ — and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.”
Although the first lady acknowledged those moments “can feel isolating,” she said that “those feelings are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up.”
Then, in April, she told graduates at Jackson State University: “When they go low, I go high.”
As outrage swelled over the former Alabama officer’s Facebook posts, the Talladega city manager said Friday that he was “incredibly disappointed and frustrated.”
Bryant said he was alerted to Husk’s social-media activity late Tuesday and “immediately initiated disciplinary procedures,” but he said he could not go into detail about the case because it’s an ongoing personnel issue. Employees, he said, have a right to appeal disciplinary actions.
But Bryant confirmed that Husk has been fired from the police department.
“Honesty and integrity are of the utmost importance, and those qualities in a public servant are the foundation upon which good government is laid,” Bryant said.
“We’re as only effective as the trust the community has in us,” he added.