JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local pastor is calling for disciplinary action against a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Sergeant for social media posts that some said are racially insensitive and discriminatory.
One of the tweets from an account associated with the JSO sergeant says: “America’s three biggest problems: 1) Marijuana abuse 2) Marijuana abuse 3) Black people.” That tweet was published in 2013.
Bishop Rudolph McKissick with Bethel Baptist Church said the tweets illustrate a problem with how some police interact with the communities they serve.
News4JAX asked JSO Gang Unit Sgt. Douglas Howell on Monday about the tweets and he directed us to JSO’s Public Information Office.
Black pastors said they were recently made aware of social media posts from a Twitter account associated with the JSO sergeant.
A tweet from June of this year, also from the Twitter handle @DPH_78, in response to a story titled “White Mexicans have had a role to play in white supremacy” says: ”There are different colored Mexicans?? (Inserts Sarcasm).”
After News4JAX published the story, Howell made his Twitter profile private.
Bishop Rudolph McKissick with Bethel Baptist Church wants JSO to look further into the sergeant’s social media posts.
″To have any officer who feels emboldened enough to put that in print, and still be an officer, I think capsulizes one of the problems that has to be dealt with, and one of the reasons why as Black people we look at police unfortunately with a jaundiced eye, because someone is willing to say that who’s supposed to protect us,” McKissick said.
News4JAX caught up with Howell on Monday morning at a political event at the Fraternal Order of Police. We asked Howell directly about his social media posts.
″You’re going to have to go through the [public information officer],” Howell responded.
“I just wanted to ask you because there are some pastors who say this kind of tweet is racist or racially insensitive,” News4JAX said to Howell.
Howell walked away when asked about his tweet about “America’s 3 biggest problems.”
News4JAX looked at JSO’s social media policy which states: “Officers are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not disrupt the work of JSO, or impair critical working relationships...Engaging in speech in any form, that ridicules, maligns, disparages, or otherwise expresses bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals.”
McKissick said more needs to be done to address what he perceives as prejudice and police.
″I think there needs to be an investigation, thoroughly and there needs to be consequences and I think whoever is our next sheriff here needs to have something in their platform to deal with prejudice as it relates to police,” he said.
JSO issued a statement to News4JAX saying they are investigating.
“In this, investigators would attempt to verify the legitimacy of the posts and determine whether the poster may be a JSO employee,” a JSO spokesman said. “Once completed, all available information obtained during the investigative process would become a public record.”