A high-ranking official in the Baltimore Police Department has landed himself in hot water after making controversial comments about Black Lives Matter protesters in an e-mail blast to other officials in the department.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis suspended longtime Lt. Victor Gearhart Monday after he referred to demonstrators at the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police conference as “thugs.” Gearhart served as vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, the publication reports.
“By now you have seen that the THUGS from BLM and other similar groups have attempted to disrupt the State FOP Convention being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel,” the disgraced VP wrote in an e-mail to fellow FOP members. Gearhart went on to state that union members attending the conference should “expect more bad behavior from the THUGS OF BALTIMORE.”
“On the bright side maybe they will stop killing each other while they are protesting us,” he added.
— Brian Kuebler (@BrianKuebler_) August 15, 2016
Baltimore’s ABC 2 News reports that protesters gathered outside the biennial convention Sunday and vowed to stay until real reforms were made. Members of Baltimore BLOC and the Black Youth 100 Project chained themselves in protest while others toted signs reading “Abolish Racist F.O.P.”
“We are targeting the FOP because we know that the FOP is not a Union,” Baltimore BLOC stated in a press release. “The FOP is a ‘good ol’ boys club’ that prioritizes the legal protection for their officers over public safety and justice. They are a private institution whose primary purpose is to protect their members, not as workers, but rather as a protected class–above the law and unaccountable in their systematic brutality, misogyny, and racism.”
Sunday’s demonstration remained peaceful, according to authorities, and only 11 people were arrested. Protesters also gathered outside the convention Monday, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Baltimore Police spokesman TJ Smith said he understood the frustrations of the protesters and asserted that the department was dedicated to making meaningful reforms. Smith also noted that Gearhart’s offensive e-mail was in no way representative of the police agency.
“…Not only was the police commissioner outraged, several members of the agency called to express their frustration,” Smith said. “We have to continue to establish trust and we can only do that through our actions. And we have to call it out when actions aren’t representative of the men and women that wear this uniform, that’s what we have to say.”
Gearhart concluded his e-mail with a criticism of the DOJ’s recent report on the Baltimore PD. The scathing review found that city police consistently discriminated against African-American citizens and used excessive force.
“Now DOJ argues that we should drop our guard and approach everyone like we are patrolling Sesame Street,” Gearhart wrote. “In today’s climate of hatred for police I would keep your Black Mourning Bands close by and available.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, this isn’t the first time the VP has referred to BLM protesters as “thugs” — and been reprimanded for it. The department reassigned Gearhart from patrol work to building security after he engaged in an online argument with activists who pointed out “offensive” and “racist” comments made on his Twitter account. He called the activists “thugs” in this instance as well, the publication reports.
Gearhart later sued the department in federal court, arguing that his reassignment and the agency’s social media policy controlling officers’ online activities were unconstitutional, per the Baltimore Sun.
There’s no word on the length of Gearhart’s suspension.