Oh, for Christ's sake: Boston cop refers to Gates by racial slur in e-mail

UPDATE: Channel 25 has posted a copy of the message, which is not just racist but misogynist.

A cop who works in Area B-3 - which covers Mattapan and Dorchester - faces termination for sending out a mass e-mail in which he referred to Henry Louis Gates as "a jungle monkey," Channel 5 reports.

Justin Barrett, 36, was suspended pending a hearing on whether he should be kicked off the force. The Herald reports Commissioner Ed Davis immediately stripped Barrett - also a member of the state National Guard - of his badge and gun.

Neither outlet is reporting exactly what was in the e-mail besides the slur. The Herald says a copy was re-mailed to the Globe, which, as I type, has yet to post anything. UPDATE: The Globe finally posted something, but also doesn't explain the context.



      Free tagging: 



      By on

      What. A. Moron.

      there has to be more to this

      I refuse to believe that someone with a city-issued gun would be this stupid/crazy. Either way, he's gone. (Unless this is a "cry for help" from a guy about to move to a rubber room.)

      Great. Another softball for the Boston Media

      By on

      And the Boston media say thank you again for giving them something easy to report on rather than doing any real work. Their corresponding national affiliates say thanks as well, as they will all start asking nonsensical sensationalist questions like "is the Boston of the late 70's rearing its ugly head?" Cue images from the bad old days showing American flags being used as weapons.

      Good point

      I wonder what kind of corrupt stuff's been going down while we've all been conveniently distracted by the latest epic racial saga?

      Its unfortunate that this

      Its unfortunate that this guy had to pay for his sins by losing his job and possibly ruining his life... but if your going to be a cop in Boston you have to have some level of respect for those you supposedly serve and protect. This goes double for a guy in the Dorchester and Mattapan areas.

      Oh well, maybe one of his buddies will buy him a beer at the bar tonight cause he sure as hell ain't going to be visiting the White House bar anytime soon.

      It goes "double for a guy in

      By on

      It goes "double for a guy in the Dorchester or Mattapan areas"?


      We're all deserve the same level of respect from our public servants. No one gets extra respect because of their neighborhood (which some use as code for "race").

      Treating everyone the same perpetuates, not minimizes racism

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      No, no one deserves (or probably wants) extra respect because of one's race, but it's appropriate to take one's cultural background into account and pay individualized respect to each person. You can't just treat everyone as if they're a white straight middle-class American-born Christian able-bodied male and then say, "but I'm never offensive; I treat everyone the same!"

      That's what I imagine the previous poster was getting at; people in the helping professions especially have an obligation to familiarize themselves with the populations they serve. If they view the folks they work with as anything but equals to themselves and their own families, then they need to get into a different field.

      And this is why it wouldn't be in the news if someone who sorts bolts for a living sent an e-mail containing racial slurs.


      That was my point exactly.

      That was my point exactly. This officer is working in an area that has a very high percentage of African Americans, his views on race make a huge difference. Considering the numbers he most likely deals with people who are not white for more then half of his working day. IF he holds people of a different race then him in disdain I do not believe he should be in a field that charges him to "serve and protect" people of that race. I believe a white officer can have empathy for people in a black community so I DO NOT believe in quotas in any way shape or form but do think it is important that you have respect for those that depend on you to keep them safe. This officer obviously did not have that respect.

      I would have felt the same way if he were a cop in Weston (which is very white) and sent the same letter but somehow its much more striking considering how many African Americans that cop comes into contact daily in Mattapan.

      By the way I was not speaking in "code" as the commenter before eeka stated. I believe we all know the different areas of Boston enough to know which areas have what percentage of people from different back grounds. It is not a secret, especially because the conversation was centered around race it made sense to me that people would figure it out.

      Dumb shit can't even get it right

      Jesus Christ on a stick, how many times do I have to tell you? Its either porch monkey or jungle bunny. Not jungle monkey. Because all monkeys live in the fucking jungle, except the ones at the zoo. Idiot. Probably put your fucking hood on backwards too. EYEHOLES IN THE FRONT, MORAN!

      No no

      By on

      Jungle bunny, maybe. But porch monkey isn't racist any more, it just means anyone who's lazy.
      He's taking it back.

      (it's a Clerks II joke reference for those who think I'm serious)


      By on

      Oh I'm so glad someone posted something from Clerks II -- That movie has been on my mind all afternoon since hearing about the stupid email from the cop!

      It was one cop in the BPD.

      It was one cop in the BPD. He was fired for saying it. His next stop is Justin Barrett, Mall Cop (with an ignorant attitude.)

      Fired? For real?

      I guess I won't believe it until after his union appeals and the rest of it. He should be fired, no doubt- but I think it's easier said than done.

      Using profanity to highlight a racial slur

      By on

      "Oh, for Christ's sake: Boston cop refers to Gates by racial slur in e-mail"

      There's some irony: using profanity to express exasperation at tribal insensitivity. Do you really want to use profane language to call attention to a racial insult?

      Maybe I would say nothing were we in Seattle or Portland, but in Catholic Boston, it seems that writing "for Christ's sake" with such prominence isn't really playing to your readership.

      I see your victim-playing and raise it one religion card

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      Yeah, and it's offensive to my Jewish Boston-tax-paying self to for you to refer to "Catholic Boston," so you're not making anything any better with your whinery.

      (FWIW, Seattle way outnumbers Boston in terms of fundamentalist-type Christians who are truly offended by any mention of Christ that isn't exactly in line with how they view Christ, so at least put a little research into your stereotyping and victim playing.)


      Jesus, Mary, and Holy Joseph

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      were the trinity that got my mum though my youthful ways, so for the sake of Christ, don't mess with our religious ways of speaking and keep things on topic- can anyone defend this soon to be ex cop? Seriously. I'm as racist as the next Irish Catholic, but this is too much even for me.

      Oh god

      "Maybe I would say nothing were we in Seattle or Portland, but in Catholic Boston, it seems that writing "for Christ's sake" with such prominence isn't really playing to your readership."

      I see, you're not actually offended, you just certain that most of the people in the area would be so you're raising an objection. There is a name for that: concern troll.

      Last time I looked, god didn't live in the hub so no worries, eh?

      God doesn't live in Boston?

      God doesn't live in Boston? I was under the impression, to those that believe in the supreme being at least, that God is anywhere and everywhere and therefor lives in Boston. In fact he is part owner in quite a few pieces of property in the Boston area and outright owns (Churches and their property) a good deal of property in some pretty high profile neighberhoods.

      All this....

      fucking swearing is offending me.

      But Ill bet 100 bucks this cop resigns. 80% chance he resigns, 18% chance he gets fired, and a 2% chance he keeps his job.

      But if he does keep his job, I don't see any way he can be on the streets again.

      Universal Hub comments trend toward the Herald

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      eeka, you've got a good point. My telegraphic "Catholic Boston" carried more freight than I wanted. "in a Boston with its high proportion of Catholics" has five times the words and twice the precision. That's what I should have written.

      As far as there being more Mars Hills-types in Seattle than here, that is true, but off point as they aren't as wired into the civic culture as are Catholics in Boston. But, time is on your side. Since the white flight to the southern 'burbs, Boston isn't nearly as Catholic as it was 30 and 40 years ago.

      Anonymous, "I see, you're not actually offended" isn't really conclusive from my post. Also, "concern troll" doesn't square with eeka's assertion that I'm playing victim. Both of you can't be right.

      These poke-'em-in-the-eye style comments are more becoming for the Herald...or the Seattle Times, for that matter. That my bloodless comment on diction and irony got your hackles up says more about you (and, perhaps blog discourse in general) than it does about my level of offense.

      For the record, Anonymous, I was offended, but not to the level eeka presumes.

      Racist Smacist

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      Harboring an opinion isn't like upholding an idea.

      Everyone has private moments of frustration, bitterness, etc.

      Also, words can sometimes touch an extreme for reaction,
      solely to provide emphasis to a point,
      or draw attention away from another point.

      Again, choice of vocabulary is sometimes selective, based on your audience; using terms with which they can identify.
      Maybe he was actually referencing an accepted sub-classification WITHIN the race.(class discrimination)

      To fire him would be the most UnChristian act and testament to the witch-hunt mentality of New World Order.

      He who is without sin, cast the first stone.

      Instead, why don't we put a baseball-cap-camera and microphone on everyone who serves public office, from the toilet breaks, right into their bedroom. Who knows? Maybe the baby-kisser you elected gives em tongue too?

      And YOU, will YOU be put to 24-hour scrutiny?

      Is there no sense of privacy, no sense of mental wiggle room to grow or entertain the nonsensical to stretch the mental legs, so to speak.

      Oh, and was it a part of an internal investigation, disrupted by a ravenous finger-pointing bigot with an ax to grind.

      Make judgement, you are god according to Nietzsche. Condemn your brother and hide yourself away for the rest of your time.

      Fox25 posted the e-mail

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      Here is a watermarked picture from Fox25 of the original e-mail.

      If they take it down, I'll repost it elsewhere.

      Bonus: He wanders between racist towards Gates and misogynist as he directs his letter to a female editor/reporter at the Globe. This guy's a real class act.

      free speech, qualified to work as a cop?

      I'm glad you posted the letter. You'd think that somewhere along the line he'd learn to not call people jungle monkey because they're black and yelled at a police officer.

      I'd be afraid this cop would bring his contempt for black people to his judgment and decision-making on the job. I think the burden is on him to prove he won't before he's ever allowed to return to his job.

      It's odd that he decides to criticize the women for her English skills in addition to her argument. I guess he's arguing that because her English skills are poor, she must be uneducated or stupid. His grammar isn't bad although he chooses not to use paragraphs to organize his missive.

      Here's the thing, what this officer has done is an expression, a right we value highly here in the cradle if Liberty, even unpopular or racist speech is protected by the 1st amendment within limits (incitement to violent acts etc.) So I think consideration must be made to this guys free speech rights. Now, we should also take him at his word and that's good reason to be concerned about his ability to enforce the law fairly and blind to color and race.

      Odd indeed

      You'd think somebody who was an English teacher would write better. It's really a mish-mash, substandard work for eighth grade. Whoever hires him as an English teacher (not that that's likely to happen again) isn't getting much of a bargain.

      It seems to me that the news articles are minimizing his letter by saying he called Gates a "jungle monkey." He didn't just write jungle monkey once, but four times, each time with extra sauce.

      "Banana-eating jungle monkey"
      "Jungle monkey gibberish"
      "Bumbling jungle monkey"

      He also called Gates a "goddamn fool" and "a suspect ...[who] will always be a suspect." It seems to me that this last is the most significant; although it isn't a slur, it shows his mindset clearly: Gates is one of them, and one "mistake" Barrett berates the columnist for is "assuming he has rights when considered a suspect." Barrett thus makes it clear that, in his mind, Gates has no rights, deserves no rights, and will never deserve any rights.

      This, more than the racial slurs, invalidates him for any public service. He's not fit to wear a uniform for McDonald's.

      Well done

      stick a fork in him.

      (But seriously, way to give it a close reading, SP.)

      how ironic

      Nonetheless, how ironic that Sonia Sotomayor, herself derided by some as an anti-white racist, went out of her way to uphold the free speech rights of an actual racist -- one who, no doubt, would find the prospect of her elevation to the Supreme Court repugnant.

      You mean she's NOT an anti-white racist? I must stop watching C SPAN and turn to a more reliable channel like Fox. Psst. Did you hear, Obama is a racist with a problem, he hates white people.

      Not a first amendment issue!

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      The first amendment prohibits government censorship.

      The issue here is what personnel policies the NYPD officer agreed to upon taking the job. My agency has policies that we may not engage in blatant racist/sexist/homophobic behavior, and that more subtle attitudes will be addressed with dialogue and training. Had I desired a workplace where I was free to use racial slurs, I wouldn't have signed up.

      I think we can make a case that the NYPD cop's behavior (just like the BPD cop's behavior) was clearly indicative that they aren't cut out to serve the public in a fair and just manner. I mean, stuff like lying to your boss isn't protected as "free speech" no matter where you work.



      But he says he's not racist, so that must be true. He said it again on the radio this morning. Heck,

      Barrett has been a Boston police officer for two years and received extensive training in racial profiling prevention while in the academy.

      So that means he can't be a racist anymore, right?

      Oh, and he also said he's sorry "for the way people are reacting." Hey, isn't a fake apology good enough anymore?


      DW and I laughed simultaneously from different floors.

      Why is it they think "I am not a racist" is some sort of magic code that undoes everything?

      From the Quit While You're Behind department

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      CNN reports his comments (he has black friends!) and those of his lawyer:

      "Officer Barrett did not call professor Gates a jungle monkey or malign him racially," Marano said. "He said his behavior was like that of one. It was a characterization of the actions of that man."

      So I suppose if I said Barrett's letter reads like the rantings of an out-of-control lunatic time bomb who shouldn't be let anywhere near a service revolver, I'm not really calling him a dick who deserves to have his badge ripped off.

      The better argument would

      The better argument would have been that the guy has an uncontrollable tick where he calls people that. From my reading of the text it sounds like he calls her that too. If I were the lawyer I would say sure its an offensive word meant to offend but he uses it on everybody or something like that.

      I think the Obama "stupid" statement should show us that the general public see's little difference between calling someone a name directly and saying they are acting that way. After all if someone is acting in a "stupid" manner there is an implication that you also think they are stupid. Same applies her.

      Someone wishes

      Someone wishes the same applied here. Obama chose his words poorly, but his poor choice actually was "acted stupidly" rather than "are idiots."

      Barrett's shyster is just trying to jump on the bandwagon and say "hey, I want the free pass Obama got!"

      But the letter did not say merely that Gates "acted in a jungle monkey-like fashion" or some such. It says Gates has "transcended [race] back to a bumbling jungle monkey."

      Really, there's no good argument for this. Some sort of email Tourettes isn't going to cut it, and neither is the Clerks II argument.


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      What the hey-all?! Did you call an attorney a "shyster?!"

      Yes, I did

      The Attorney-at-Law anti-defamation league can kiss my schei├čer.

      agreed--the guy is creepy

      Yeah, putting aside the question of whether the guy is a racist, a sexist, a whatever-ist, his letter is a creepy, hateful, unrestrained rant, a small step removed from the kind of paste up missive you'd expect from a sicko perp.

      We do not want someone this unhinged carrying a badge and a gun. Please, this is not about First Amendment rights. This is about someone whose demonstrated psychological makeup sends out alarm bells.

      So the president of the

      So the president of the United States can get on national television and call a bunch of civil servants "idiots," while admitting to making such comments without knowing the circumstances involved, but an email from one man to an editor can get a cop fired? Sup double standard, sup?

      ETA: While I don't necessarily agree with the language used in this email, I do respect the officer's right to free speech. He also makes some valid points. The recipient apparently wrote, "Gates'... great success has allowed him to transcend the racial divide..." in an article... well, sorry, but his complaints and cries of racial profiling clearly show that he's transcended nothing.

      You are a tool

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      Yeah, but nobody was holding that "idiots" remark against John Quincy Adams. Oh? You meant Obama? Funny, I didn't hear him say "idiots"....because he didn't say it.

      Also, this e-mail wasn't solely between him and the Globe. He also sent it to multiple members of his National Guard unit which is when one of them brought it to someone's attention (so even though you've removed it, you were wrong to think that all of the Guard members he sent it to would have "not cared" about his racial slurs).

      So, grow up. This guy is a racist and a misogynist and doesn't deserve to carry a badge and a gun or hold the honor of a Guard member.

      It is ironic that one of his

      It is ironic that one of his NG buddies turned him into the Herald considering he sent the letter to a Globe reporter. He has no right to privacy for two reasons. First reason is he sent the missive to a person who works for a newspaper. There is the old saying "do not get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel" I assume that applies here. The second reason is anytime you send a letter out to a group, especially something charged like this, you have to assume that someone will either be offended or at the very least not like you enough to toss you under the speeding bus.

      Bad premise

      call a bunch of civil servants "idiots"

      The prez didn't call anyone "idiot," or for that matter "stupid". His comment was that CPD "acted stupidly" -- in other words, he didn't characterize them, just their behavior in this particular circumstance. Big difference.

      He's entitled to all the free speech he wants

      That free speech is subject to ramifications, though, particularly if you work for an organization that interfaces with the public on a daily basis - like a cop. Then, your employer should have the discretion to terminate your employment because a) your personal views do not jive with those of the organization, and b) your views can hamper your ability to perform your job, and c) your views could potentially cause a lawsuit against your employer.

      If I were to exercise my right to free spech and start a blog that consistently trashed the company I work for, there's nothing illegal about it. However, I would eventually expect a pink slip for exercising my right to free speech.


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      Freedom of speech refers to the government not censoring your speech. It doesn't mean you're free from the consequences of your speech. The employer being a branch of the government doesn't change this. No one is attempting to censor this guy's speech; they're just responding (appropriately) to this guy's speech having indicated that he's unable to serve the people in an ethical manner.


      I wouldn't say that

      By on

      If it turns out that this guy did write those things, I think it suggests a failure of judgment, since he should've realized that the letter would get out, and futher realized that BPD couldn't stand the PR or lawsuit liability of having him on the force after it did.

      However, I think (speaking as a non-lawyer) that it's not a 100% settled question whether terminating his government job for his speech off the job violates his right to free speech. I think that current public attitudes and political context (on race, police, etc.) are skewing our assessment here. There might actually be a case on free speech grounds.

      Then again, even if there's a case there, I suspect there's something in the employment contract, such as regarding "conduct." And I doubt the union wants to sacrifice a few limbs to stand up for a guy in this situation.

      Not a free speech issue!

      By on

      The government is not censoring or threatening to censor this guy's speech. He has been fully permitted to engage in his hate speech.

      And his hate speech shows pretty clearly that he lacks the judgment to perform his job without clear prejudices.


      Then surely these incompatible attitudes must have been

      already manifested on the job in some way that supervisors can point to in order to actually justify dismissal. Complaints from the public, instances of negligence or failure to perform the duties of the job, etc.
      If not, then we can only assume that, like most of us, the cop is able to work with some people he doesn't necessarily like, follow the work rules, and maintain a professional attitude and conduct while on the job. I might not like "frat-boy jock types", or bible-thumping Christians, but I might have to work with some, and I have to get along with them while I'm at work.

      He could have been an angel or hero..it doesn't matter.

      Now I hate to see anyone lose their job or pension or house over something they might have said as an opinioin, but that doesn't excuse the fact that he simply cannot be a police officer anymore. Not only does he have to face the public, other officers now have to worry about their safety when going to a call with this man. Its a tough enough job as it is worrying about the problems they might face on a call, this officer brings with him an additional problem on every call.

      Now Dan there might situations where officers free speech rights might pose a harder question on to whether they should be fired or not.

      Let's say an officer has a blog about the chief in his/her town and the blog criticizes the chiefs policies and how he handles certain decisions.

      Or an officer who says on a blog that he hates going to calls in a certain part of town because the people who live in that part of town are usually criminals.

      But this issue is more clear cut and common sense to me.

      Try looking at it from the other POV though

      By on

      If this had hit the media and they hadn't let him go, then you'd have all kinds of people of color (and probably other marginalized populations) out there knowing that the police force doesn't care if officers have these sorts of blatantly hateful views.

      Also, it's pretty impossible to separate it out so cleanly. He says horrible hateful racist things in his personal life, but is entirely respectful of minorities and sees them as his equals while he's working? Human brains just don't work that way.

      Similarly, there's a particular business I'm terrified to go anywhere near because it got out in the media that one of the professionals there believes (and stated in writing to a superior) that anyone who's GLBT is actively mentally ill and has no judgment. The CEO of said business did not do any disciplining and maintained the position that if this person were to let such beliefs cloud this person's job, there would have been complaints. This CEO clearly has no idea what it's like to be a minority and never quite know whether the not-too-great treatment you received was because the person believes you to be inferior to them, or because the person just was having a bad day or isn't terribly competent. We don't go rushing to complain that someone's a racist or a homophobe every time someone in the helping professions isn't as helpful as they could be. It's pretty clear to me that people who make blatant racist or homophobic statements don't then go work with minorities and view us as equals who have the same rights and same judgment as they do. And when they're allowed to stay because someone erroneously feels that "freedom of speech" applies to benig able to say inappropriate things in the workplace, then it makes all the minorities in the workplace and minority customers feel like the whole organization doesn't give a rat's ass about us.

      It was a letter to a person

      It was a letter to a person who works for a newspaper.

      If he were in a bar, drunk with his friends and let out a few jokes I could honestly live with that (I know I know Im not a minority but still.) The fact of the matter is by writing to a member of the media in such a way he must have known it had a HUGE chance of being seen by thousands of people. It just so happened that it took a different route.

      As a white man in America with a giant chip on his shoulder I would advise he not vent out his racial frustrations to a member of the "media elite".

      Oh, I get ya

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      Yeah, I wouldn't be calling for the firing of someone who made jokes at a bar about my demographic either. Or someone who says something in a professional manner that's biased against me without probably realizing it since they're human and don't always have my group in mind.

      But putting slurs in writing? Just way over that-there-line-that-every-competent-person-knows-where-it-is.

      Don't you think that fear of economic ostracism

      could have a chilling effect on free speech? What good is a right if everyone is afraid to actually exercise it? Say I worked for the federal government. Should they be able to fire me for a blog where I vehemently criticize Congress or certain government policies?

      Um, no

      By on

      My boss is fully aware of my blog where I frequently criticize the branches of the government that fund us.

      Regardless of whether my boss agrees, my professionally worded criticism of a broken system doesn't lead anyone at my job to think that I lack the judgment to make decisions that affect the lives of the often marginalized people we work with. If I started using racial slurs and disability slurs on my blog complaining about the people we serve, then I would expect to be disciplined.


      You are lucky

      By on

      Many people who work (or are enrolled in a school) don't have the free speech capabilities that your job allows you.

      Be afraid.

      Be very afraid. Say what you like, as long as I like what you say. Or else, YOU'RE FIRED!
      Shut up or starve.
      Perhaps even private employers have been allowed too much authority vis a vis this issue, especially since eventually there will probably only be two or three megaconglomerates that we will all have to work for.

      No, see, there are some obvious lines

      By on

      Do you really think it's too much to ask that a professional adult refrains from using racial slurs aimed at the population he serves? If he doesn't realize that this is just behavior you don't engage in, then he doesn't have the judgment to be a police officer.

      At least at my employer, people are only disciplined for similar outrageous behavior like using strings of racial slurs. Because obviously we all know that that just isn't OK. If you don't know where that line is, we don't want you in a professional position where you have the potential to really majorly affect people's lives.

      But my employer (and I assume most others) aren't going around attacking every little word or action that suggests someone might need to examine their privilege and attitudes; it's understood that everyone has areas where they can benefit from some feedback and introspection, so this sort of stuff is addressed by a dialogue with one's supervisor without any disciplinary connotations.


      Let's settle this

      By on

      Officer Barrett, let's settle this over a beer at Packy's. It's on your beat and I'm sure everyone would love to see you!

      As a black man I was

      By on

      As a black man I was concerned that if this officer is not a racist, why write those words? He might as well said the "N" word but he figured nah that would be too harsh let me sugarcoat this a bit and say "jungle monkey". What did he expect was going to happen? Everyone is racist in some way or another. He should've just kept the comments between a few guys on the force and he would still be working right now. I know a lot of state troopers and even they admit to me that whenever they pull over someone black or hispanic that they are bit more apprehensive than pulling over a white person.

      Also if a cop is racist (which doesn't shock me in the least bit because 85% are) why offer to protect and serve the same people that he refers to as jungle monkeys? Why wouldn't he try to protect and serve in a small town like Easton, Avon, Milton, Stoughton, Bridgewater etc. Also his attorney is defending the officer saying that he referred to the way the Harvard Professor was acting? That's not what the officer wrote. The officer knew exactly what he was writing but did not think he would get this type of response.

      Granted the fact that there was swift action taken should prove that some sort of justice is trying to be served which is fair but the sad truth is that racism will never end.

      are you considering the irony...

      By on

      ...of complaining about stereotyping black people/drivers, and then stereotyping police officers?


      I see the irony in his

      I see the irony in his statements but he does make a good point. It is amazing that the officer thought it was ok to mouth off like that in the email to so many people that was aimed at a newspaper employee. If he thought it was ok to do that I do wonder what else he thought was "ok" to do.