Michigan’s capital city tried for months to prevent a daily newspaper from receiving a file that revealed a police officer was fired for using several racial slurs and offensive remarks.
Former officer Leonel Rangel, a Hispanic man, was fired Dec. 21, 2018, after a disciplinary report the Lansing State Journal obtained revealed he said another officer would be promoted because he is “dumb and Black.”
That same day Rangel told someone “Somali citizens needed to return to the Congo,” according to the report.
Rangel was cited for unbecoming conduct after making the remarks in question on Nov. 18, 2018, in the Lansing Police Department writing room, according to the report.
Rangel had been working for Lansing police two years when he made the derogatory statements, the Lansing State Journal reported.
The disciplinary report showed Rangel also answered a phone call by saying “what’s up n—-” in front of another officer on Nov. 20, 2018.
The remarks initially led to a recommendation from Rangel’s supervisor, Sgt. Ed Guerra, that he be suspended for 30 days and required to undergo diversity training, Police Chief Mike Yankowski told the Lansing State Journal.
But after a related hearing and recommendations from Lt. Rodney Anderson and Capt. Daryl Green opposing the suspension, Yankowski determined Rangel should be fired, the newspaper reported.
The city was initially tight-lipped about the incidents involving Rangel and attempted to block the Lansing State Journal from receiving his disciplinary report.
The City Attorney’s Office told the newspaper that the “city’s interest in non-disclosure exceeds the public’s interest in disclosure.”
“Should such information be disclosed it would have a chilling effect upon internal investigations,” Assistant City Attorney Amanda O’Boyle wrote in a denial letter to the newspaper’s Freedom of Information Act request.
The city only released the document, with names redacted, after the State Journal filed an appeal and Yankowski referenced the matter at a public Board of Police Commissioners meeting June 18, the newspaper reported.
It’s unclear how the newspaper got the city to release a version of the disciplinary file that didn’t have Rangel’s name redacted.
The paper reported it is currently fighting to determine whether Rangel is still licensed as a police officer in Michigan.