Sheriff’s captain suspended suspended over Facebook post calling Black teens ‘Animals’

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SEATTLE — A member of King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht’s command staff was suspended for a day without pay after Capt. Todd Miller made a “very offensive and racist” Facebook post. Miller was found to have engaged in “conduct unbecoming” the Sheriff’s Office when he reposted what appeared to be a news article and photo of Black teens beating and stealing the sneakers of another teen on his Facebook page last year, with the comment: “Animals. This is what the inner city gives us these days.” The source of the post is unknown.

During an interview, sheriff’s Internal Affairs Unit Sgt. Tim Meyer noted “a historical context of the word ‘animal’ … especially with persons from the African American community” and wondered whether Miller ever considered it. Miller insisted that his comment wasn’t racist and was intended to comment about the “socio-economic issues existing in American inner cities” that drive crime, according to internal investigation documents. He acknowledged, however, that others might see his comments differently.

A message from the newspaper seeking comment from Miller through the Sheriff’s Office public information officer was not returned. The sheriff sustained a finding of misconduct relating to Miller’s behavior, which Johanknecht found had “serious violations of the core values” of the Sheriff’s Office as it pertains to actions that diminish public respect or confidence. Miller was also found to have violated the office’s social media policy. He was exonerated of allegations that he engaged in discrimination, harassment, incivility or bigotry because the post was made when he was off-duty.

“As written your use of the word ‘animals’ is most reasonably interpreted to be a statement about the people involved, which includes their race,” Johanknecht wrote in findings dated Feb. 11. “The use of that word ‘animals’ in connection with a post depicting black people sends the offensive message and negative reference to all black people whether living in the inner-city or not.”

Johanknecht said she did not dispute Miller’s assertion that he did not intend to make a negative racial comment about Black people but said that was a mistake on his part.

“It was poor judgment given your rank, level of command and knowledge of the current social climate regarding racial inequity and social justice,” she wrote.

The sheriff in February fired Deputy Michael Brown for posts joking about the deaths of Black Lives Matter protesters.

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