President Barack Obama (Getty Images)
PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. - A village police officer has been suspended and could be fired after apparently posting a racist, obscenity-laced rant about President Obama on his Facebook page.
"The fact that he (Obama) is still alive bewilders me," Officer Peter Burns allegedly wrote in the post, which The Journal News obtained Thursday. "Go die in a shallow grave you Muslim commie ..."
The post, time-stamped Dec. 11 on a Facebook profile page Burns is accused of operating under the name "Coon Trapper," contained a racial slur, made reference to "1st amendment NSA," and described Obama as "un-American."
After being shown a screen grab of the vulgar diatribe late Monday afternoon, Pleasantville Police Chief Richard Love said he was unaware of the post but would take immediate action. On Tuesday, Love announced that Burns had been relieved of his duties and placed on paid administrative leave.
The Facebook post contained "despicable statements," Love said in a statement. He said the comments "are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
Once an internal affairs investigation is complete, "the police department will consider all legal options, including the possibility of commencing disciplinary proceedings against the police officer, which could lead to his dismissal," Love said. Pleasantville is a village of 7,000 people about 30 miles northeast of New York City.
The statement did not identify Burns by name.
The Facebook profile page, which was deleted Tuesday morning, contained photos of Burns in hunting gear and camouflage, and included links to hunting and animal trapping websites. The page's settings were private, meaning that only those who "friended" Burns had access to the Obama post and others on his Facebook page.
Burns, 35, could not be reached for comment. He was hired in 2004 and receives an annual salary of $98,959. Officer Matthew Listawn, president of the Pleasantville Police Benevolent Association, is on bereavement leave and could not be reached.
"We deplore racism in any form," Mayor Peter Scherer said. He said he could not comment further because the Village Board of Trustees would hear the case should disciplinary charges be filed against Burns.
Some have portrayed village police as racist following the shooting death of Danroy Henry, a black Pace University football player. In the Oct. 17, 2010, incident that took place outside a bar Thornwood, N.Y., just south of Pleasantville, Officer Aaron Hess, who is white, shot Henry as he started to drive away.
Hess had joined a number of Mount Pleasant officers responding to reports of a disturbance involving a large crowd. Hess, who ended up on the hood of Henry's car, was injured and has since retired. The case has resulted in a number of lawsuits.
The 20-member Pleasantville department includes one black, one Hispanic and two female officers among its ranks.
"The fact that a cop can say something like that about the president shows that there are deep racial issues within law enforcement," said Damon Jones, president of the Westchester chapter of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. "It's something our elected officials have to pay attention to. There should be racial sensitivity training in every police department with oversight to make sure that it's being done properly and being taken seriously."
The Pleasantville incident is the latest of similar cases of cops getting into hot water over controversial Facebook postings:
• In October, the police chief in Austin, Texas, suspended a detective for 10 days for posting what he called sensitive law-enforcement information - photos of interrogations and crash scenes - on his Facebook page.
• Last year, 17 New York City cops were suspended for posting racist and offensive comments on a Facebook page devoted to the city's 2011 West Indian Day Parade.
• In 2009, three Harrison, N.Y., police officers were suspended and demoted after making lewd comments about then-Supervisor Joan Walsh and swapping racist jokes about Obama.
Those episodes and similar incidents across the country have prompted many police and government agencies to adopt social media policies for their employees. Pleasantville does not have such a policy.