Two Avon Police Lieutenants, two sergeants, one officer, and one dispatcher were issued written reprimands for their participation in forwarding an email that smeared president-elect Barack Obama during the recent campaign.
The internal investigation into the use of the town’s email system for political purposes was prompted by a complaint from WTIC radio talk show host Colin McEnroe, who brought it to the town’s attention on Nov. 13.
In his email to Avon officials, McEnroe alleged that “an Avon Police Officer used his title and the Department’s email system while forwarding negative information about Barack Obama.”
The original email titled “Who Does He Stand For?” purports to present select excerpts from two books written by Obama that appeared to show he disliked white people and would ally himself with Muslims against U.S. interests. Lt. Ron Welch received the email from an acquaintance outside the police department and forwarded it to 12 individuals in the police department.
Avon Police Chief Mark Rinaldo, said Tuesday that six people in the department deleted the email and six forwarded it, in its original form, without adding any of their own comments to it. The six that forwarded the email were issued written reprimands, which will stay in their files for three years.
Those disciplined for the email include Lt. Welch, Lt. Rob Whitty, Sgt. Tom Jacius, Sgt. Adam Lazinsk, Officer Todd Akerley, and Dispatcher Dale Swanson. The internal investigation also turned up a number of other derogatory, anti-Barack Obama emails in each of their email accounts.
When describing the email, Rinaldo said “it was political. It was not racial.”
He said he’s confident all of the individuals involved have learned their lesson and will never do something like this again.
However, Rev. Cornell Lewis is always worried that history will repeat itself.
People in the Hartford community are always very concerned about how things are perceived, he said. Back in 1993, a Black Avon police officer filed a discrimination lawsuit against the town alleging that some Avon police officers target blacks and Hispanics for motor vehicle stops.
Avon Town Manager Philip Schenck Jr. said the town prevailed in that lawsuit and the courts found there was no racial profiling taking place in town.
“We want to give Avon officials the benefit of the doubt,” Lewis said Tuesday, which is why he met with Avon officials to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. And to “make sure the emails that went out are not perceived as racist,” he said.
Schenck said the town is reviewing its technology use policy for all of its employees and will make sure that these types of events don’t occur in the future.
Click here to read Colin McEnroe’s blog entry regarding this matter.