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Los Angeles sheriff awards comedian for racially-motivated routine

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The sheriff for Los Angeles County is facing criticism for presenting an award to a comedian who told a series of racially-motivated jokes at a luncheon held Wednesday, leaving some in the crowd feeling very uncomfortable.

About 600-700 people were present for Wednesday’s lunch, put on by the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County, according to The LA Times. Sheriff Lee Baca was among them, along with William McSweeney, who heads up the LA County detectives.

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Officers in full uniform were roaring with laughter during the lunch as comedian Edwin San Juan cracked racially-motivated jokes spiked with sexually explicit language and ethnic slurs targeting African-Americans and people of Asian descent.

“He managed to insult every ethnic group,” an anonymous attendee told the Times. “There was a lot of cringing and nervous laughter…. I was sitting there thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?'”

San Juan, who is Filipino, typically performs an act (embedded below)  in which most of his laughs are generated by mocking his own ethnicity. The act seems to have struck a nerve when performed at a gathering of police officers — particularly in one of the nation’s most diverse cities where the bloody history of race-related violence is an ever-present reminder of the tensions lying just under the surface.

Baca presented San Juan with a plaque after the event that praises the comedian with an inscription that reads, “Your ability to combine wisdom, leadership, and humor serves as an inspiration to us all.” San Juan later published a photo of he and his mother posing with Baca and holding up the plaque.

A spokesperson for the LA County Sheriff’s Department later told CBS Los Angeles that Baca was also made uncomfortable by San Juan’s jokes. “Was he concerned? Yes,” the spokesperson said. “Did he think complaints would come forward? Yes. Does he want to extend an apology to anybody that was offended? Of course. That’s not the intent of this off-duty, informal lunch where people come together and bond.”

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This video is from CBS Los Angeles, aired Thursday, July 25, 2013.

This video is from YouTube, published July 14, 2013.

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[Photo: Edwin San Juan’s Facebook page.]

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