Officials in the small Alabama town of Vincent fired the police chief and assistant chief and voted to dissolve its police department after a racist text surfaced online.
The text shared online between someone going by “752” and an unknown recipient makes a joke about slavery. Former Police Chief James Srygley confirmed with AL.com reporters that the text was sent by a police officer on Tuesday, Aug. 1, noting that the department conducted an internal investigation and “appropriate disciplinary action has been taken.” The city’s website lists just three people in the police department.
However, three days later, the Vincent City Council fired the chief and assistant chief John L. Goss and voted to disband the department temporarily. A third officer resigned by text later that night.
Vincent mayor James Latimer said the vote gives the city time to recruit and rebuild a new police force. The officials also plan to hire an independent firm to investigate the officers. Latimer told The New York Times the assistant chief sent the offensive message.
“There is a little more to the decision than just this one incident,” he told NPR, without going into further detail.
“What do y’all call a pregnant slave?” 752 texts.
An unidentified recipient responds twice: “?” and “??”
“752” answers: “BOGO Buy one, get one free.”
City Councilman Corey Abrams said the text had disturbed many in the community. The city near Birmingham has a little under 2,000 residents; 12 percent of them are Black and 85 percent are white, Census data shows.
Longtime resident Sharron Davis told WVTM that she felt unsafe after seeing the text.
“These are people that are supposed to protect and serve, and to know they are sending these racist texts or making racist comments and things like that, it makes you not have any trust in them,” she said.
President of the Shelby County branch of the NAACP, the Rev. Kenneth Dukes, said the message is the “tip of the iceberg” in a community with unsolved instances of racism.
“I think now the Council, along with the mayor, see that this is totally unacceptable and that the people have said, ‘No more,’ ” he said.
However, after Thursday’s council voted to dissolve the department, Dukes said he was encouraged by how everyone came together to address the problem.
“I’ve been a civil rights activist for a long time, and I never experienced the power and magnitude of people coming together like that,” Dukes said. “The Black community isn’t just going to go back in the corner. They’re tired of being disrespected, so they’ll continue to come together to speak out. I think the entire city of Vincent will improve and get better when every citizen stands together to speak out against racism, disrespect and inequality.”
The Shelby County Sheriff’s office acknowledged in a statement on Aug. 5 that it would take over emergency law enforcement services for Vincent. The office said “we equally condemn these actions.”
“We all deserve to be treated with respect, so I feel for everybody involved,” the mayor said. “I hope we can have the strength to get through this and be better on the other side.”