Sept. 4 — After a Manchester officer raised concerns about another officer’s sharing of a meme making light of the killing of George Floyd, internal investigators and police supervisors said they felt the action was racially insensitive, prompting the chief to require an annual bias and sensitivity training;
But racial justice advocates say the episode remains troubling.
The 2021 incident came to light last month when Officer Christian Horne was promoted to sergeant and the Union Leader learned that Horne had been suspended for several days, demoted and received sensitivity training after sharing a meme that appeared to mock his murder Floyd. The Union Leader and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire filed right-to-know requests for a report and related documents from the police department’s professional standards investigator.
The meme was shared by Horne from his personal phone in two group text messages with other city police departments, according to documents obtained in response to the request. The meme showed a photo of Floyd, who died by suffocation by police in Minneapolis in 2020, over a pink background to look like a Valentine’s card with the text, “You take my breath away.”
After fighting over the issue for a week, one of the officers in the group text, who is Black, reported that Horn shared the meme with a police chief. That officer’s immediate supervisor was in the chat and received the meme, but didn’t type any message in response, so the officer figured he wouldn’t get much support.
Horn had apologized via text message to the reporting officer the same day he sent the meme, according to screenshots released as part of the report, saying he hadn’t thought about it before sharing it. In texts the complainant sent to a co-worker, which were part of the released report, the officer told another co-worker that getting this meme from a co-worker really freaked him out — so he decided to report the situation.
Other officers and supervisors interviewed as part of the investigation dismissed the meme as a “game” and “dark humor,” even though they were “pissed” to see it, according to the investigator’s report, and thought it was in poor taste and unprofessional. . No one, including the officer who raised the matter, thought it was intended to intimidate or harass anyone.
Manchester NAACP President James McKim said after reviewing the report that the incident seemed insensitive, but he worried about what it shows about the culture at the police department — and how willing police are to have tough conversations about racism and racial insensitivity by itself Actions.
“That’s the kind of thing that defines the culture,” McKim said.
Aldenberg said moderators did confront Horn about the meme, but did so in person, not in the text thread.
After the report was released at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, Joseph Lascaze and Ronelle Tshiela, co-founder of the ACLU’s Black Lives Matter Manchester, said in a joint statement that they believed the episode showed deep insensitivity and racist behavior.
“What is being revealed in Manchester is a police culture where officers are repeatedly comfortable with racist behaviour, speech and behavior and feel that there will obviously be little to no consequences for their ‘funny’ and ‘culturally insensitive’ actions. “, the announcement states.
Tshiela and Lascaze continued, saying it was equally troubling that police supervisors who received the meme chose not to do anything about it and that the black officer felt he would not have the support of his superiors.
Aldenberg said the department learned from the 2021 incident. Annual continuing education for city police increased from eight hours a year to 40 when Aldenberg became chief last year, and annual training now includes bias and sensitivity training.
Aldenberg said he expected the investigation to become public, but said he was proud the department took the anesthesia complaint seriously, launching an internal investigation and disciplining Horn.