A small city in Alabama moved this week to disband its police force after a department member was accused of sending a racist text message and two of its leaders were suspended, its mayor said.
The third and final member of the department in the city, Vincent, Ala., resigned after the text message allegation prompted the City Council to make plans to dissolve the department, the mayor, James Latimer, said on Saturday.
Residents raised concerns at a City Council meeting on Thursday after a screenshot circulated on social media showing the racist text message about slavery.
After the suspensions and resignation, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Friday that it was handling law enforcement emergency calls for the city. The statement added that officials at the Sheriff’s Office “equally condemn” the allegations of misconduct.
The city, which is about 30 miles southeast of Birmingham, has a little under 2,000 residents, 392 of them Black, according to census figures.
“This has torn this community apart,” a member of the City Council, Corey Abrams, said at the meeting, according to AL.com, which reported this week on the text message.
The Rev. Kenneth Dukes, the president of the Shelby County branch of the N.A.A.C.P., said that the text was the “tip of the iceberg” and reflected unaddressed community concerns about racism in the community.
“I think now the Council, along with the mayor, see that this is totally unacceptable and that the people have said, ‘No more,’” he said.
Mr. Latimer said that the police chief, James Srygley, and the assistant police chief, John L. Goss, had been suspended with pay at the council meeting on Thursday. An officer, Lee Carden, resigned. The council approved a resolution to pursue the termination of the chief and assistant chief, the mayor said.
Chiefs Srygley and Goss and Officer Carden could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
The council also agreed to draft an ordinance to dissolve the police department and to work with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to contract for law enforcement coverage.
The Rev. Dukes said his organization planned to meet with community members in the coming weeks to hear their feedback before the next City Council meeting on Aug. 16. He said he appreciated the city’s quick response to the text message allegation and was waiting to see if the chief and assistant chief would be terminated in keeping with the Council’s recommendation.
“I think at this moment we are pleased with the outcome and hopefully everybody will move forward, once it’s confirmed,” he said.
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