Sheriff’s Capt. Thomas J. Flanders (Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department)
Five Montgomery County, Ohio, sheriff’s deputies allegedly sent racist text messages both on and off duty, sparking a sweeping internal investigation, according to Talking Points Memo, citing reports at WDTN and WKEF television news stations.
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Thomas Flanders (pictured) and detective Michael Sollenberger, both suspended on paid administrative leave, were just two names listed in a complaint filed by the NAACP Dayton, Ohio unit, WDTN reported this week. The three other deputies were not publicly named, the report says.
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer addressed the disturbing texts on Tuesday, which were sent on personal cell phones between November 2011 and January 2013, the news station writes. Two read: “I hate N**gers. That is all,” and “What do apples and black people have in common? They both hang from trees.”
He also identified Sollenberger as part of the department’s internal affairs team and Flanders as head of the Montgomery County Jail, the station reported. “I will not tolerate racism in this department,” Plummer told WTND.
The investigation began after Dayton Unit NAACP President Derrick L. Foward received an anonymous tip about the messages in August, and reported it to the department. Officials said that they conducted a three-month investigation, and met with the NAACP national office before going public with the allegations, Raw Story reports.
Foward expected the deputies to be fired if the internal investigation concluded that they sent the messages.
Civil rights leaders have long complained about police violence against Blacks, especially unarmed men. The texts provide a sobering glimpse into the mindset of some White law enforcement officers, an issue that has moved to the forefront nationwide as protesters demonstrate against grand jury decisions not to indict two White officers in the arresting deaths of two unarmed Black men.
Widespread and ongoing protests broke out last week after a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict then-Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. And this week, a Staten Island, N.Y., grand jury refused to indict a NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
The deputies appeared shocked by the allegations, but “did not apologize,” Plummer told WKEF. It’s just another striking example of how some White law enforcement officers are used to operating unchecked as they violate and disrespect Blacks.