The president of the Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association resigned Thursday over his role in a racist texting scandal that led to his second demotion and cost several officers their jobs.
Deputy Don Morissey is the second leader of a sheriff’s organization to lose his position since the exchange of several racist and derogatory text messages about people of color was first reported in 2015, The Mercury News reported.
Morrissey, who has long faced calls to step down, will lose his $800 a month stipend from the union but will still serve as a law enforcement officer.
“Within our association and the broader law enforcement community, leaders must not only set an example but demand accountability when we fall short,” he wrote in a letter to DSA member Thursday. “That accountability must start with me.”
Morissey said he hoped his resignation would pave the way for the organization to earn back the community’s trust in light of the shocking messages.
” … While I regret the unfortunate events that brought us to today, I am hopeful that this Association will keep working to realize the highest ideals of public service at the heart of our mission, to include eliminating all forms of discrimination and harassment from our department, and to improve the level of communication with members and the community as a whole,” he added.
Morrissey was first demoted from lieutenant to sergeant in 2012 for browsing online porn at work, and again for his failure to report texts from former officers referring to people of as “nig-nogs,” “yard apes,” “g–ks” and “k-kes,” among other slurs against Blacks, Vietnamese and Jews, San Jose Inside reported.
In one exchange, officers made several derogatory and bigoted remarks against Black people, like “Happy Birthday, Buckwheat.” They also used trans- and homophobic slurs, even sharing photos of swastikas and KKK members in pointy white hats.
“We could hang n-ggers in Haiti for about 75 bucks tops,” one message read.
Discovery of the shocking texts outraged the community and sparked calls for Morrissey’s termination. An independent investigator, who was Black, cleared the former sergeant of sending the outwardly racist texts, but Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith demoted him for being complicit and failing to stop officers from sharing the offensive texts on the job and off-duty, according to The Mercury News.
Morissey admitted to chiming in on the messages but denied using racist language.
“I’m glad he stepped down for the sake of the union and the community,” said Rev. Jethroe Moore, president of the local NAACP chapter. Moore said there’s still work to be done to prevent bias in the sheriff’s office, however, and suggested sensitivity training for sworn officers.
“It’s a dire need for many of them,” Moore added.