We like to think that police officers exist to protect and serve our community and keep us safe. But, let’s face it, that’s not always the case.
Most law enforcement officials are good and honest people, but occasionally you get a bad seed. It’s part of why there has been an ongoing debate over whether cops should be allowed to march in Pride parades.
This week, two members of law enforcement made the news for their antigay antics–Beverly Hills police chief Sandra Spagnoli and former Madison County Alabama sheriff’s deputy Jeff Graves–proving that bigotry still festers behind the badge.
The Beverly Hills police chief has cost the city of $3 million in discrimination lawsuits since last December. Most recently, the city had to pay $250,000 to department employee Dona Norris after she became the target of homophobic and racist abuse at the hands of Spagnoli.
According to court documents, it all started when the police chief learned Norris was a lesbian and responded by saying, “Ew! Gross!” Another time, she told Norris that if she wanted to attend the department holiday party, she would have to “dress Mexican.” At trial, Spagnoli admitted to the remarks, but insisted they were never meant to be offensive, to which we only have one response: “Ew! Gross!”
The Madison County Alabama sheriff’s deputy was fired from his job in May of this year after he took to Facebook to mock the death of 15-year-old Nigel Shelby, a local teenager who died by suicide after he was bullied for being gay, calling all LGBTQ people “fake” and saying he was “seriously offended” by homosexuality.
Two months later, Graves was back on the job, working as an officer for the nearby Owens Cross Roads Police Department. Upon hiring Graves, Owens Cross Roads Police Chief Jason Dobbins, said, “Everyone deserves a second chance.” Meanwhile, the 15-year-old child who Graves openly mocked remains dead.
The Gainesville Police Department in Florida had a viral post on its hands when it shared a photo of three officers during their Hurricane Irma recovery efforts in 2017 and much of the internet swooned. Until it was discovered that the handsome bearded officer in the center of the photo was a total bigot.
Internet sleuths quickly uncovered all sorts anti-Semitic “jokes” on Officer Michael Hamill’s Facebook page, including one that said about welfare recipients should be put “in the oven” and dealt with “the Hitler way.” Shortly after that, it was also discovered that Hamill had been sneaking away from work to have on-the-clock hookups with Uber drivers. Needless to say, he’s not with the force anymore.
The straight 25-year-old intentionally applied to join the Cheshire Police Department in Connecticut during a diversity drive when the department was hoping to recruit more LGBTQ officers. Furlong didn’t get the job, so he sued for discrimination, saying the experience “completely shattered my confidence in the police force recruitment system.”
In response, the department offered Furlong a job as a concession. Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke said the diversity drive was created “with the best of intentions” and was never intended to be discriminatory against straight people. As a consequence, the department will likely never hold another diversity drive again.
The “Hot Cop of Castro” had a remarkable fall from grace when he was found guilty in 2018 of two felony counts of hit and run after plowing over two pedestrians in San Francisco then fleeing the scene, ditching his car a few blocks away, and running away. Kohrs, who was drunk at the time of the hit and run, was sentenced to nine months in prison.
Prior to being found guilty, Kohrs had become internet-famous when photos of him patrolling the streets of San Francisco went viral on social media and a Facebook page for the “Hot Cop of Castro” was created, accumulating over 50,000 followers. The page has since been deleted.