Small Alabama City Police Department Nixes over racist text message

Officials in the small town of Vincent, Alabama, fired the police chief and deputy police chief and voted to disband the police department after racist text surfaced online.

The text, shared online between someone labeled “752” and an unknown recipient, makes a joke about slavery. Former Police Chief James Srygley confirmed to reporters that the text was sent by a police officer on Tuesday, August 1, noting that the department was conducting an internal investigation and “appropriate disciplinary action was taken”. The city’s website lists only three people at the police department.

Vincent City Council votes to disband the Vincent Police Department. (Photo: YouTube screenshot/ NBC News)

Three days later, however, Vincent City Council fired chief and deputy chief John L. Goss and voted to temporarily disband the department. A third officer resigned via text message later that night.

Vincent Mayor James Latimer said the vote gives the city time to recruit and rebuild a new police force. Officials also plan to hire an independent firm to investigate the officers. Latimer told the New York Times the deputy chief sent the offending message.

“There’s something more to the decision than just this one incident,” he told NPR without going into detail.

“What do you call a pregnant slave girl?” 752 texts.

An unidentified recipient replies twice: “?” and “??”

“752” replies “BOGO Buy one, get one free.”

Councilman Corey Abrams said the text worried many in the community. The town near Birmingham has a population of just under 2,000; 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 who are meant to protect and serve, and knowing that they’re sending these racist texts or making racist comments and things like that doesn’t make you trust them,” she said.

Shelby County branch president of the NAACP, Rev. Kenneth Dukes, said the message is the “tip of the iceberg” in a community with unresolved cases of racism.

“I think now the council, along with the mayor, sees that this is totally unacceptable and that people have said, ‘No more,'” he said.

However, after the council voted Thursday to disband the department, Dukes said he was encouraged by how everyone came together to address the issue.

“I’ve been a civil rights activist for a long time, and I’ve never seen the power and scale of people coming together like this,” Dukes said. “The black community is not just going to back into the corner. They’re tired of being disrespected, so they’ll keep coming together to speak their minds. I think the entire city of Vincent will improve and get better as all citizens stand together to speak out against racism, disrespect and inequality.”

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in an Aug. 5 statement that it would handle emergency law enforcement services for Vincent. The bureau said, “We equally condemn these actions.”

“We all deserve to be treated with respect, so I feel for everyone involved,” the mayor said. “I hope we can have the strength to get through this and be better on the other side.” Small Alabama City Police Department Nixes over racist text message

James Brien

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