A three-person Alabama police department was dissolved after a racist text message written by one of the officers surfaced on social media.
The City Council in Vincent, Ala. decided to suspend the police chief and assistant chief at a meeting on Thursday (Aug. 4) and to disband the department, Mayor James Latimer told NPR. After the suspension, the third officer resigned his position.
Al.com published a screenshot of the racist joke about about slavery sent from someone identified as “752” to an unknown recipient.
The Rev. Kenneth Dukes, president of the Shelby County NAACP branch, said the text message was just the “tip of the iceberg” in a community concerned about racism, The New York Times reported.
Vincent, a city of less than 2,000 people, is located about 30 miles southeast of Birmingham. Its residents are about 85% white and 12% Black.
“I think now the council, along with the mayor, see that this is totally unacceptable and that the people have said, ‘No more,’” Dukes added.
Latimer told NPR that the suspensions are temporary. The city council plans to hire an independent firm to investigate and to rebuild the department. "It gives us some breathing time and time to make sure we do the right thing," the mayor added. In the meantime, the greater Shelby County Sheriff's Office will respond to emergency calls.
Dukes praised Vincent’s Black community for unifying and voicing their concerns. The civil rights leader marked this as a turning point in a community scarred by racism.
"The Black community isn't just going to go back in the corner," Dukes told NPR. "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."