Pennsylvania police chief resigns over email that said ‘N****rs gotta learn how to read’
Farrel Police Chief Thomas Burke (WICU/screen grab)

The newly-sworn-in police chief of police in Farrell, Pennsylvania has handed in his resignation after stirring controversy when an email containing a racial slur went public last week.

According to the Sharon Herald, Tom Burke resigned less than a week after being sworn in because he wrote in an email about a book drive last spring, "N****rs gotta learn how to read."

Burke sent the offensive email to around 40 members of parent-teacher organizations connected to elementary schools in Sharon, Pa. He was sworn in on Nov. 17 as chief of police. The offensive email came to light shortly thereafter.

Farrell Mayor Olive McKeithan said that she asked for Burke's resignation in a meeting on Wednesday.

“I asked him if he would step down because I thought it would be best for the community," McKeithan told the Herald. “He said ‘yes.’"

Burke said at his resignation that his intention was never to offend anyone.

About half of Farrell's residents identify as black. Burke was set to take office at the beginning of 2016. He retired as the police chief of nearby Sharon in 2007.

Although Burke resigned on Wednesday, the city did not make the news public until the weekend due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Michael Ceci, Farrell city manager, told the Herald by phone on Friday that he would never have hired Burke if he'd known about the offensive email.

“He wasn’t set to be on the job until Dec. 1, so we allowed him to resign before he actually was on the job," Ceci explained.

"(I)f somebody were to ask if we had discovered this e-mail during the interviewing process would we have hired him, the answer would be no," Ceci said.

“When dealing with the public sector people should expect more from us," Ceci said. “There is no place in government on any level for this."

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