Police Chief Resigns Over Racist Slur — Here’s What He Said

Thomas Burke, a Pennsylvania police chief who had just been engaged and was yet to start work at his new department in the City of Farrell, has voluntarily stepped down. Burke was criticized for a racial slur he used in a fundraising email.

Burke’s email was sent as part of a fundraising project that was not related to his police job. The fundraiser was sponsored by the parent-teacher organization of an elementary school in the Pennsylvanian city of Sharon, which is close to Farrell.

It is believed the opening of the new police department will be delayed to give the city time to decide on a replacement police chief.

Burke was sworn in as the City of Farrell police chief on November 17. He agreed to resign Wednesday after receiving criticism for his comments. He is an experienced officer who previously worked as police chief in the nearby city of Sharon.

In fact, Burke’s slur was related to the city of Sharon, where he used to work.

My intention was never to offend anybody. [I] ask [for] the community’s forgiveness.

News outlets and commenters are making much of the fact that the police officer’s racism was evident “before he even started” his job — a reference to the believed prevalence of racism among American police officers, reported by Mic.

The officer used “a variation of the n-word,” as reported by WKBM. Complex believes that Burke said “Sharon n****s gotta learn to read” (in other words, the n-word was slightly modified, with its “er” replaced by an “a”).

Al Jazeera reported in September this year that the U.S. has accepted advice from the U.N. on how to deal with police violence and racism.

Earlier this year, in the wake of the Ferguson riots, Barack Obama’s outgoing attorney general attempted to protect his officers, claiming there were no grounds to bring a federal prosecution against a white police officer who had shot dead an unarmed black teenager, as reported by the Telegraph.

The killing of the black Ferguson teenager started a heated national debate about race relations and heavy-handed policing.

Thomas Burke’s resignation over his racist email slur came after Farrell mayor Olive McKeithan asked him to step down.

The mayor said she phoned Burke and they had a very brief conversation.

“I asked him if he would step down because I thought it would be best for the community. He said ‘yes.’ ”

Burke’s email was sent months before the city of Farrell hired him. He was due to start his job on January 1 2016.

Burke may have lost his job as chief of police in Farrell, but in Sharon (the city that he made his comments about), he is still working as a city council member. In fact, Burke was on council at the same time he sent out the email, raising the question of whether Burke should be dismissed from his Sharon role as well.

WFJM reports that Burke was actually using the n-word in a “playful” way to describe the Sharon elementary school students, rather than black people of the wider Sharon community.

At press time, the Huffington Post had just got its hands on a screenshot of the email. It seems Burke’s slur was not included in the body of the fundraising text itself. Rather, he added a short, informal message to a PTA email before forwarding it.

Stephanie Sheffield, a Farrell city councilwoman and colleague of Burke’s, has just come forward commenting on the e-mail.

“I just feel it was a negative response for our area here in Sharon and Farrell. I spoke to him this morning and I immediately said ‘dismissal.'”

[Image by Getty Images]