Of the St. Louis American
The transition team for President-elect Barack Obama included in its online application for employment in the administration a question about the most embarrassing email the applicant had ever sent.
Though it’s unlikely former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Ronald L. Fowlkes will be applying to work for the new president, he wrote and sent an email on election night that would qualify as embarrassing to the majority of Americans who voted to elect Obama.
In an email time-stamped 10:14 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4 with the subject line “USA,” Fowlkes sent the following message to 23 individuals, most of them current or former St. Louis police officers:
“I can’t believe I live in a country full of NIGGER LOVERS!”
This sentiment was followed by 31 exclamation points.
Of the 23 men who received Fowlkes’ racist election night message, six are current officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. They are Craig A. Chromoga, Jay Klipfel, Mathew C. McDonough, Michael J. Muxo, Brian Rossomanno and Thomas P. Scanlon.
In an email exchange obtained by the American, there is no record that any of these men responded in any way to Fowlkes’ racist message. Each was emailed yesterday morning at the police department email address Fowlkes had used for them, requesting comment. None had commented by press time.
Gary Wiegert, president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, returned a call but declined to comment.
When the email was brought to the attention of Police Chief Dan Isom, he sent a department-wide memo objecting to it.
“The comments in this divisive email do not represent the values of our department and the men and women who serve this community. I hope you, like me, realize the inflammatory nature of these comments and the harm that it can cause,” Chief Isom wrote.
He added, “I appreciate the job you do every day and the sacrifices you make.”
Remarkably, one of the 23 men addressed by Fowlkes in this racist manner on the historic election night is African-American, a retired police officer named Levaughn Smart.
“You should probably check your mail contacts before you send out emails,” Smart responded to Fowlkes less than two hours after receiving the message.
“Now I know where you stand. I will be sure to forward this to the other ‘Niggers’ I know!!!”
A number of new names were copied on Smart’s reply.
Smart added of Obama, “And for the record, he is biracial. So, he is just as much white as he is black.”
The next morning, Nov. 5, Fowlkes responded to Smart and those individuals he had copied.
“Now you know where I stand. I think this socialist, Muslim is bad for our country,” Fowlkes wrote.
There is no evidence that Obama is either socialist or Muslim.
Fowlkes added, “Maybe my email should of read something different and included his white heritage or called him ‘Hoosier’ or ‘HAIJI’ or some other racist term.”
Fowlkes then goes on to justify his inclusion of Smart in the original racist email.
“You are on my email contacts because you and I and many others you have forwarded this email to have pounded the same ground, drank from the same camelback, and covered each other’s back!” Fowlkes wrote.
“Was it a poor choice of word, probably so, but it’s out there. I think you know if you ever needed anything or needed someone to come through the door and get you I would be on POINT!”
That evening, an African American currently serving in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, who had been copied by Smart and on Fowlkes’ reply to Smart, weighed in, copying yet another new list of people.
“As you will see below, former officer Ronald Fowlkes forgot who was on his mailing list. Ooops!!” wrote Detective Sergeant Clarence Hines.
“Amazing the arrogance of this former police officer, especially considering his initial comments and subsequent defense of same. He needs much prayer!”
The next day, Nov. 6, another African American currently serving in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, who had been copied by Hines, brought the situation back home to the local police force in a message copied to more than 100 police officers.
“I’m more concerned with the individuals he initially sent it to that are still on this department. Please stay mindful of your so-called colleagues and remember their potential to have the same thought process of Fowlkes,” Sergeant Darren R. Wilson wrote.
“They bear watching and should feel the scrutiny. I guarantee if he sent the initial message with such confidence and blatancy, they all speak like this routinely.”
Fowlkes, who last worked for the city police several years ago but still uses a Yahoo email address that includes “stlpd,” is thought by several current police officers to have done work recently in Iraq with a U.S. defense contractor.
“I don’t know where Fowlkes is right now (in or out of the country), but I’m willing to do all I can to ensure his career in law enforcement or any form of public service for that matter is definitely over,” Wilson wrote.
“We don’t need him and other like-minded individuals in our communities nor do I want them so-called watching my back.”
When Chief Isom was made aware of the original email in the context of the ensuing exchange, he wrote in his memo on Nov. 10, “All department members should cease any further posting of the e-mail message,” which put a stop to it.
EEOC or no EEOC?
Former city cop Redditt Hudson, who now covers racial justice issues for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, said Fowlke’s message speaks to the culture of the department.
“It speaks to the sender’s understanding of the environment to which the message was being placed. I know he wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t expect some receptivity,” Hudson said.
“There is an ongoing challenge with that department to come to grips with the real issues of race, not just between the police and the community but within the department itself.”
Daniel Isom, an African American, recently was promoted to police chief after Joe Mokwa resigned amid allegations of corruption.
Isom recently has suggested that the department eliminate its staff position of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission specialist because the department receives too few complaints to justify the position.
The previous EEOC specialist, Lynda Anderson, alleges she was pressured to falsify her report when she turned in a report critical of Human Resources Director Larry Brockelsby.
She said her office was then moved near Brockelsby’s, which she claims discouraged department employees from coming to her with complaints since they could be observed by the HR director.
Anderson was fired and has filed her own EEOC complaint against the department.
“I’d be reluctant to eliminate an independent office and turn another avenue of investigation over to the department itself, given recent disclosures that show lack of commitment to oversight and accountability,” Hudson said.
He cited a judge’s startling observation on the record that the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners n a state-appointed board with Mayor Francis G. Slay as its only city representative n has turned “a blind eye” to citizen complaints of the use of excessive force by city cops.
“It is not up for legitimate debate that independent resources should be in place to investigate allegations within the police department,” Hudson said.
“I hope Chief Isom gets the support he needs to make the changes that I think he knows are necessary.”