A handful of Alabama police in Pelham are in trouble over an audio recording made of them mocking special needs children at a local learning center. It's the reason why Dustin Chandler, a Pelham police officer, says he just turned in his resignation.
AL.com reports on the disturbing story about a recording taken a few months ago of a few cops within the department mocking disabled children who attend Linda Nolen Learning Center. It was done after roll call, which also included supervisors.
Pelham Mayor Gary Waters wasn't pleased with the audio and reveals that the mocking wasn't a total surprise.
"This is not a new problem. This is just a symptom of a larger problem.Chandler was given the recording by someone and it's drawing attention to how police personnel and department attitudes affect the public. Nobody knows who actually recorded the audio, Mayor Waters says.
"There is a culture at our police department that has grown that is allowed to do that. I am not part of that culture."
Former officer Chandler also claims he reported the problem regarding his fellow officers, but hasn't seen any change or acknowledgment of the issue. He tells the news source that someone has to be a voice for the kids who have a hard time speaking for themselves. He has a 3-year-old special needs daughter himself.
"I am a guy that takes my daughter very seriously, her situation. You've got to be their voice and when they're being made fun of at their expense, you're making fun of my daughter.Pelham Deputy Police Chief Larry Palmer said his "mouth just hit the floor because I've heard nothing of this," when asked about the tape with officers making fun of special needs children. He says he has to listen to the tape and learn more about what's going on. He did list off the charitable efforts that Pelham police have involved themselves in, such as the Special Olympics, the Polar Plunge at Oak Mountain State Park, and No-Shave November fundraiser.
"Somebody has to stand up and defend the defenseless."
Alabama police officers in the audio recording mimic the movements and hand gestures of kids at the learning center who have mental and physical challenges. The recording's source says this is what was happening, although it's not heard on the tape.
Among some of the disparaging comments heard by the Pelham police, one consists of an officer groaning when he mimics a kid, saying, "Every time I walk in there..." and another is laughing about the children who are "happy" to see them whenever they walk in. He says to another officer, "Which one are you looking at? Are you looking at the teachers or at the students? Which one's happy to see you?"
Another remark made by a cop as well: "They just start rocking in their chairs and throwing [expletive] everywhere."
"My God. The sensitivity in this room," another officer says.
Waters is aware of the problems within this Alabama police department and an investigation is being pursued.
"I've known for quite some time there are some performance and behavior problems in the police department, and I've been taking steps over time to repair those."The mayor reveals that he's is "working closely with several people" -- and has been since he got in office -- "to change the culture of the organization, but it takes time."
[Image via Linda Nolen Learning Center]