A white law enforcement officer in Tennessee received a three-day suspension without pay after he admitted to twice using a racial slur to refer to a black colleague.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on Tuesday that an internal affairs investigation concluded that Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. George Jackson used the N-word while talking to another officer.
Records obtained by the paper show that the incident occurred while Jackson was walking into the jail with Deputy Jessica White on Nov. 14.
White told Jackson she was worried after seeing him swerving while driving to work. Jackson replied that he had car insurance “just in case a n****r” like her without insurance ran into his vehicle.
After the comment, White said that she went to the jail’s central control room to ask about filing a grievance. But Jackson walked into the room while she was inquiring about the process.
Investigation documents indicate that Jackson once again repeated the slur in front of White. Video allegedly shows other officers laughing at the comment.
For his part, Jackson said that the comment was meant to be a joke, and he insisted that it was not racially motivated.
Sheriff Jim Hammond suspended Jackson for three days without pay.
“They’d been partnering up for a long time and had pushed the limits — both of them — in terms of how they respected each other,” Hammond explained. “He carried it to a point where she got offended, so we had to discipline him… It’s not appropriate and I won’t allow it to go on, that’s why I took the steps I did, but it did not raise to the level where I would do anything more severe on the first time.”
Concerned Citizens for Justice organizer Ash-Lee Henderson told the Times Free Press that the suspension was nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
“If police officers and correction officers would talk to fellow deputies like this, how would they talk to community members?” she said. “It’s egregious that this situation happened, and we think it is a miscarriage of justice for him to get three days unpaid. There needs to be some actual change in the policies and procedures that allow this type of culture to exist in the corrections department.”
“There is no time in our history when white folks have used that word without it being demeaning,” she added. “Folks with privilege and power have used that word to talk about the intellectual inferiority of black people, to set them apart as an inferior class — there is no way to twist it and say, ‘Oh ha ha it was a joke.’ Especially in the context in which it was said. It was, ‘Black people are inferior to us because they don’t get insurance, and that is why I have to have insurance.'”