After Reporters Find A Number Of Racist Emails, Top L.A. Law Enforcement Official Resigns

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell CREDIT: AP PHOTO/AMANDA MYERS
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell CREDIT: AP PHOTO/AMANDA MYERS

A top law enforcement official in Los Angeles County resigned Sunday after reporters discovered a cache of racist emails he circulated.

Tom Angel stepped down as Chief of Staff to L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell just days after a series of racist and anti-Muslim emails he’d sent and forwarded in 2012 and 2013 were published by the Los Angeles Times.

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“I took my Biology exam last Friday. I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently, ‘Blacks’ and ‘Mexicans’ were NOT the correct answers,” one of the emails Angel forwarded reads.

Angel sent the emails while serving as Chief of Police in nearby Burbank, a community that is nearly one-quarter Latino and less than 3 percent black.

In another message, Angel passed along a list of reasons “why Muslim Terrorists are so quick to commit suicide” that includes bullet points for “Constant wailing from some idiot in a tower,” “You can’t wash off the smell of donkey,” and “More than one mother in law.”

As of 2000, Burbank ranked among the heaviest Arab-American communities in America on a percentage basis. Statistics from 2010 indicate that southern California in general has one of the largest Muslim populations in the nation.

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After the emails were published on Wednesday, McDonnell initially stood by his top staffer. “Everybody’s got their own take on humor,” he said, adding that the episode was “divisive and nonproductive” but that he didn’t plan to discipline Angel.

For his own part, the chief of staff apologized “if I offended anybody, but the intent was not for the public to have seen these jokes.”

Law enforcement officers’ racist texts and emails are becoming important tools to expose racial bias in police departments that claim they target black and brown people not because of their skin color, but simply because they happen to live in high-crime areas. A few hours north of LA, San Francisco’s police force is still reeling from the exposure of virulently hateful texts from several officers. San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr is currently facing an ongoing hunger strike from activists demanding his resignation.

Three officers were fired and a fourth resigned in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, last year after racist text messages they portrayed as jokes were brought to light by internal affairs investigators. More than a dozen officers in the Miami Beach law enforcement community caused a similar scandal there early last year.

Police and city officials in Ferguson, Missouri routinely shared racist jokes and emails while they engaged in systematic racial profiling on the job, a Department of Justice investigation found.

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Angel moved to the L.A. County Sheriff’s office in 2015 as part of a house-cleaning push in the wake of prisoner abuse scandals in the department’s jail. Tales of severe beatings and corruption brought federal investigations, and the Sheriff’s office brought in outsiders with experience running prisons to take over administration of the jails. Terri McDonald, the woman credited with turning things around in the jail system, stepped down from her post after three years in late April.