Thomas Burke, Pennsylvania Police Chief Resigns Over Slur: ‘Them Sharon N***** Gotta Learn How To Read’

Thomas Burke, the former police chief of Sharon, Pennsylvania, has been asked to resign as the chief of a new police force opening in the neighboring city of Farrell over his use of a racial slur in April while employed as the director of safety and security with a steel mill, and while raising money for a local reading program, according to WKBN.

“Even $1.00 will be greatly appreciated. Them Sharon n***** gotta learn how to read,” an e-mail, which was full of spelling and grammar mistakes, the former police chief sent to dozens of community members was quoted by Mediaite.

By November 20, Councilwoman Stephanie Sheffield with the City of Farrell had become aware of the e-mail and spoke about Burke’s racial slur, as reported by Erie News Now.

Sheffield described meeting with Burke after she became aware of the e-mail saying that she immediately thought “resignation.” She stated that the police chief offered an apology, but described that he regularly uses the offensive slur.

“[Burke said] he does use the ‘N’ word very often because that’s the way it is in our area. [I don’t think] he should stand in that position if he’s going to use the ‘N’ word,” Sheffield was quoted.

Perhaps surprisingly, even after it became clear that Thomas Burke feels that his use of the “N” word is justified because “that’s the way it is” in the area, City of Farrell Mayor Olive McKeithan, an African-American, was ready to allow the incoming chief continue in his newly created position with the city’s new police force.

“Until you get to know a man’s character, you can’t judge him by one off-the-cuff remark, or else we would have to judge all white people as equally guilty,” McKeithan was quoted on November 23. “I have spoken with Mr. Burke and consider the matter as closed.”

Since then, McKeithan’s position on Thomas Burke, his use of racial slurs, and his future with the City of Farrell as police chief, has made an abrupt change. After consulting with other city officials, Mayor McKeithan reported that she asked Burke to resign on Wednesday and that he agreed, according to the Greenfield Reporter.

Last Monday, Burke, who at the time thought that he was still going to be beginning as the Farrell chief of police, stated that he was “truly sorry” for his use of the racial slur. Roughly half of the population of 5,000 in the City of Farrell are reported to be African-American.

Farrell is located about an hour’s drive northwest of Pittsburgh. Until the end of the year, the city’s law enforcement will be provided by a regional police force that is disbanding. A new Farrell police force is planned to replace the regional force beginning on January 1, 2016.

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Since his resignation, Burke has reportedly been unavailable for comments.

Eighty-two-year-old Farrell resident Bishop Martha J. Sanders spoke about the impact a police chief using racial epithets could have on the community.

“I am concerned, because there are many young blacks in Farrell who are already unruly, who are already disenfranchised,” Sanders was quoted.

Fellow Farrell citizen, Reverend Tiffany Holden, also condemned Thomas Burke’s use of a racial slur. She stated that it isn’t “OK” for someone who is seen as a community leader to be using “such words.”

The president of the Mercer County NAACP, Monica Gregory, spoke out against Burke’s choice of language, stating that there needs to be “regulations” in place to stop people in positions of power from using racial slurs. The president spoke about starting initiatives that would stop occurrences like what has transpired with Thomas Burke from happening in Farrell again in the future.

[Feature Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images]