Editor’s Note: The names of the two officers are being withheld for officer safety until the investigation into the allegations is complete. This story will be updated as more information is made available.
Screenshots of two Minden Police officers allegedly making racist comments on social media were circulated throughout the city Monday.
The screenshots were sent to District A City Councilman Herbert Taylor. He sent them to Minden Chief of Police Steve Cropper, Minden Mayor Terry Gardner, the other city councilmen and the Minden Press-Herald.
In addition, multiple people posted the screenshots on Facebook, tagging the Press-Herald and others.
Cropper said he was first informed about the alleged posts Monday morning.
“A local preacher called me and said he had something on his phone that concerned him and wanted to share it with me,” he said. “So I had him send it to me.”
Cropper said he was shocked by the allegations, “I’m upset about it. My stomach is sick about it. I don’t condone it. I’ve already made the phone call to the civil service board in Baton Rouge to see what my options are, because these guys are protected. Their jobs are protected.”
Cropper said the comments he saw looked out of character for the two officers as he knows them today.
“I’ve known both of them for a long time, and I’ve never heard anything come out of their mouths that gave me any thought that this was their train of thought. Never.”
The screenshots, which appear to have been taken from Facebook, are time stamped six years ago, which Cropper said was prior to either’s employment with the Minden Police Department.
“Under civil service, I can’t discipline somebody unless it happened after their hire date,” Cropper said. “I can counsel them, and have them remove anything that puts a bad light on the police department. But, other than that, I’m being told there is not a whole lot I can do.”
Cropper said he had not talked to either officer about the posts, or the subsequent social media firestorm that ensued, but both officers’ personal Facebook accounts were taken down during the day Monday.
“I’m sure they are not going to be happy about it,” Cropper said.
Cropper said the city has a social media policy, as well as other policies within the Minden Police Department against negative remarks and treatment of people.
“We do have a policy, whether you are on or off duty, you shall not ridicule, mock, deride, taunt, batter, or belittle any person or willfully embarrass, humiliate, or shame any person,” he said. “The city has a policy that employees are not to get on [social media] and make derogatory remarks. They are not to get on there and argue. You can’t win an argument on Facebook.”
Gardner added the social media policy is for all city employees.
“I have a policy in effect with all of our employees, that if you are going to make a comment on Facebook, you make positive comments,” he said. “I don’t want to see anything negative concerning your job, or concerning the City of Minden. Period. And, I haven’t seen any of that [since invoking the policy.]”
Cropper said the screenshots definitely violate both policies, but still took place prior to their employment, explaining, “Yes, they violated the policy if they were employed. But as of what I’m seeing right now, they weren’t employed. And you can’t discipline someone for what they did before they were hired, is what Baton Rouge is telling me.”
Gardner said the administration’s new procedure of background checks will help gather information for new hires.
“We have a new company doing background checks to check more thoroughly,” Gardner said. “At that time [when the officers were hired], that wasn’t in place.”
Cropper said the comments reflected in the screenshots are not shared by him.
“That’s what kills me about this,” he said. “I don’t feel this way. I’ve never felt like that. And I don’t understand people that do.”
Gardner said items in the past, while they should be examined and investigated, should not stop the city from moving forward in unity.
“I’m looking out the windshield. I’m not looking in the rear-view mirror,” he said. “I’m choosing to move forward in a positive direction, hoping to bring the community together.”