Two Memphis, Tennessee police officers have been placed on suspension after one allegedly posted a Snapchat picture showing an officer aiming a gun at an emoji of a black man.
The image showed the white officer’s hand pointing a gun at an emoji of a black man running, according to the police department. The officer allegedly uploaded the Snapchat on Thursday, the same day protesters and police officers came under fire at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas. One of his fellow officers posted the picture to Twitter shortly after it surfaced on Snapchat.
Memphis police were quick to condemn the image. In a Friday press conference, Memphis Police Department Director Mike Rallings called the Snapchat a “disturbing image supposedly posted by an MPD officer,” adding that “the image is disgusting and will not be tolerated.”
But the Memphis police department has a history of racial tension among its ranks. Rallings’ predecessor Toney Armstrong made headlines in some right-wing news outlets after he invoked the “All Lives Matter” mantra at a Memphis officer’s funeral in August 2015. Earlier that year, the department threatened to demote some of its black members over a class-action lawsuit which claimed pay and promotions discrimination against black officers.
One of the officers involved in posting the offensive Snapchat told a local Fox affiliate that he had been disgusted by the image, only uploading it to Twitter to draw attention to its racist overtones.
“So I came across this on my Snapchat from a fellow officer,” he told Fox. “I don’t know how to take it?”
Police sources tell the station that this officer might face a reduced punishment, while the officer who initially uploaded the picture to Snapchat faces termination after Memphis Police conclude their investigation.
The Memphis Police Department’s social media policy requires "employees must avoid any conduct which could compromise the integrity of the Department. This includes conduct related to materials posted on personal websites, social media, twitter, Facebook ... etc.”
Speaking alongside Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Rallings urged unity within his department and decorum on the computer.
“I’m angry, frustrated and disappointed that we continue to go down this path,” Rallings said during the Friday press conference, telling the public that “we cannot survive if we do not work together. We are not your enemy, we are your ally.”