A Ferguson, Missouri, police official has been fired and two others placed on administrative leave after a new report from the Department of Justice on the city's police department revealed "direct evidence of racial bias" in emails where President Barack Obama is depicted as a chimpanzee and Michelle Obama is shown as a bare-chested African woman.
During a news conference held Wednesday to confirm reports about the disciplinary actions being taken against the offending officers, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said, "This type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Ferguson Police Department."
The DOJ report highlighted that evidence of racial bias was seen in emails from and interviews with "influential Ferguson decision makers," which include police commanders and court supervisors, all of whom are current employees, according to USA Today.
These officials "expressed discriminatory views and intolerance with regard to race, religion, and national origin," said the report. They were further cited as "unequivocally derogatory, dehumanizing, and demonstrative of impermissible bias."
The following excerpt was cited as "illustrative" of the inflammatory email exchanges:
• A November 2008 email stated that President Obama would not be president for very long because "what black man holds a steady job for four years."
• A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: "I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!"
• An April 2011 email depicted Obama as a chimpanzee.
• A May 2011 email stated: "An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, 'Crimestoppers.'"
• A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain "welfare" for his dogs because they are "mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are."
• An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, "Michelle Obama's High School Reunion."
• A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.
Reacting to the emails Thursday, Leah Gunning-Francis, associate dean of contextual education at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, told The Christian Post that behavior such as that displayed by the Ferguson police officials "should not be tolerated within our police departments or in any government entity."
Francis, who's active in the Black Lives Matter movement, is also the author of the upcoming book, Ferguson and Faith, slated to be released in July. The book will look at the Church's response to Ferguson and what faith leaders can do to promote racial justice.
Among her recommendations to change the culture is that churches should support young emergent leaders and "seek to foster relationships with congregations that might be different from their own."
The DOJ pointed out that based on their investigation, superior officers involved in the email debacle were unlikely to discipline subordinate officers exhibiting similar acts of racial bias.
"Critically, each of these email exchanges involved supervisors of FPD's patrol and court operations," noted the DOJ report.
"FPD patrol supervisors are responsible for holding officers accountable to governing laws, including the Constitution, and helping to ensure that officers treat all people equally under the law, regardless of race or any other protected characteristic," it continued.
"The racial animus and stereotypes expressed by these supervisors suggest that they are unlikely to hold an officer accountable for discriminatory conduct or to take any steps to discourage the development or perpetuation of racial stereotypes among officers," the report added, according to USA Today.