Opinion: WeHo Needs to Speak Out on LASD Bigotry

The chief of staff of one of West Hollywood’s largest contractors has forwarded email messages containing insults of Muslims, blacks, Latinos and women. And who is that contractor? The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

The Los Angeles Times, in a story published today, said that Tom Angel, when he was the second-ranked police officer in Burbank, sent or forwarded those insulting emails. Oddly, Angel was brought into the Burbank force to deal with allegations of police brutality and racism.

la county sheriff's department
Tom Angel (Photo courtesy of Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)

“I took my Biology exam last Friday,” said one of the forwarded emails published by the L.A. Times, which obtained them under the state’s public records law. “I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently ‘Blacks’ and ‘Mexicans’ were NOT the correct answers.”

The Times cited another email message titled “How Dumb Is Dumb?” and listed reasons “Muslim Terrorists are so quick to commit suicide … ” They included “towels for hats,” “constant wailing from some idiot in a tower” and “you can’t wash off the smell of donkey.”

Those emails and others were sent in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse learned about the emails and told his officers that such comments were inappropriate. LaChasse also began auditing officers’ emails.

The Burbank Police Officers’ Association protested that Angel’s emails were offensive to women as well as ethnic and religious groups. “We find it extremely offensive that a high ranking member of our organization was engaging in what clearly appears to be misconduct,” the union’s board of directors said. “There is no room for racism or discrimination of any type within the ranks of our organization.”

Angel apologized, sort of. “Anybody in the workplace unfortunately forwards emails from time to time that they probably shouldn’t have forwarded,” he told the L.A. Times. “I apologize if I offended anybody, but the intent was not for the public to have seen these jokes.”

And his boss, Sheriff Jim McDonnell, whom Angel serves as chief of staff, was similarly nonchalant. “Everybody’s got their own take on humor,” McDonnell told the Times. “This was divisive and nonproductive. It’s a shame the whole thing happened at all.”

McDonnell says he doesn’t have any plans to discipline Angel, since the messages the L.A. Times uncovered were sent before Angel’s joining the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

However those messages do say something about state of mind, the attitude toward women and minorities, held by Angel, one of the top figures in an organization that West Hollywood pays more than $18 million a year to keep us safe. Similar emails led to officers in San Francisco and Ferguson, Mo., being fired or put on leave.

Our City Council isn’t hesitant to condemn sexist and racist remarks by officials in other places. Let’s see if it’s willing to take action to force Sheriff McDonnell to more aggressively signal to his employees (and our peacekeepers) that Angel’s behavior (and the attitude behind that behavior) is flat out wrong.

  1. the guy has been pushed out, and now we move on.
    if you’re shocked or scratching your head about people in positions of authority or power doing or saying stupid things, then …. well, you get the idea.
    it’s not against the law to be an a-hole, but we don’t have to pay you for it.
    i prefer to know who the bigots are.

  2. @ManofReason I hear what you’re saying and agree that the Council could do a statement condemning the comments, as you mention they do with so many other issues, but the suggestion by the author “to take action to force Sheriff McDonnell to more aggressively signal to his employees (and our peacekeepers) that Angel’s behavior (and the attitude behind that behavior) is flat out wrong.” suggests to me more than a press release on the issue. I don’t see what that “more than” could be, other than an ultimatum: “fire him or we fire you”, which to me, is unrealistic.

    I think you bring up a good point, I’m wrong in thinking the most important question is what is our end-game, maybe we already know what our end-game is – an effective public safety agency whos senior officials and rank and file alike are free of racists, bigots and sexists. The most important question the Council should ask when considering any action in this is: will the action(s) result, or move us closer, in reaching our end-game?

  3. @Josh Well, given that this city council takes positions on Vladimir Putin, fur bans and, as this blog has reported, dormitory policies at the University of North Carolina, why wouldn’t it push the head of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to eliminate racists, sexist and other bigots from his management? McDonnell’s statement that he wouldn’t “punish” Angel is very troubling (you’ll note in the news that he has changed his mind). The Council’s end game should be that it isn’t hiring an entity to provide a key public service whose senior management is staffed by racists, bigots and sexists.

  4. While I find the comments Mr. Angel made in those emails reprehensible, I’m not sure what role our Council has in the matter, other than releasing a statement that such comments, and as the article says, “and the attitude behind that behavior”, are hurtful, hateful and not humorous, in fact only serve to promote bigotry and racism. Other than that, I’m not sure what else the City Council can or should do given the fact the emails were sent before Mr. Angel was hired by Sheriff McDonnell and given that after the emails were discovered, McDonnell has since said he has no plans to punish Mr. Angel.

    I think the Council could release a statement condemning the comments but I think they should keep in mind or ask themselves “what is our end-game here?” It is unrealistic to think that something of this scale, that didn’t even happen on LASD’s watch, could jeopardize the contact between the City of WeHo and LASD – so, with that in mind and the fact McDonnell has said he has no plans to punish….beyond a released statement condemning the comments, what would our end-game be here?

  5. I have always said that law enforcement everywhere seems to attract too many racists, bigots, homophobes & other hate mongering bullies who exercise their “right” to mistreat, abuse & even kill, under the cover of their “job” & their badge. This is well evidenced by the many cases of blatant police abuse & unjustified shootings around the country. This is not to say that all law enforcement officers fall into this category, far from it. I think most are honest, conscientious men & women who operate within the agency rules of conduct & within the law. However those who externalize their character & personality flaws by bullying & abusing innocent people, are a near & present danger to the society they are sworn to protect & to serve. That’s why I think the hiring/screening processes should be much more stringent, disciplinary actions should be much harsher, counseling should be more thorough & updated training & reevaluations should be conducted more often & more incompetent & criminal cops should be fired. It seems that now too much riff raff is allowed through the department doors disguised as law enforcement & unfortunately they often are able to unjustly mar the reputation of all law enforcement & that’s a shame.

  6. *crickets* from Council and PS Commission no doubt. As long as it is not Russia harassing gays who cares if our tax payer funded security vendor is terrorizing and ridiculing the populace they are paid to protect. No biggie.

  7. I’m willing to bet that those emails were TAME in comparison to other emails and text messages regularly exchanged by deputies and ranking officials at the LASD. I doubt anything will happen even after the LA Times story.

  8. Like this is news!
    Weho politicians LIED to voters and taxpayers about the promise of creating a WEHO PD!
    “To expensive”, cause then, we could NOT afford the massive perks and over priced salaries of City Hall!

    Weho residents have been taken for suckers by the LASD and crooked WEHO politicians.

  9. 10 years ago, something like Angel’s “apology” might have worked as a defense, although even then it would be pretty weak. But in 2016? For someone appointed to help deal with racism? Absolutely not. Even a third-rate HR team would be alarmed that this happened and that the organization isn’t perturbed. As long as this jackhole is in place, the LACS is open to a huge discrimination lawsuit. Yeah, West Hollywood does need to hold LACS accountable for this. It shouldn’t be permitted to just brush it off claiming it was misguided humor. And the Sheriff’s Department in the heart of WeHo is a model of inconsistency. I went in to report a crime once, and I was interrogated and forced to surrender my idea by some power-hungry desk clerk. I was made to feel like a criminal — to the point where I finally got my ID back and gave up and went home. I was so angry that I called back and asked to speak to someone in charge. A detective then came to my apartment and couldn’t have been better. But why that first dude got to keep his job without reprimands is beyond me — he clearly had that Simi Valley bigot stink all over him.

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