When Brandon Sicilia was named the police chief of Price City last July, some residents of the small Utah town were “horrified.”
While the 47-year-old law enforcement official had spent over two decades serving the Carbon County city of 8,715 residents, he also had a history of posting vile, racist comments on Facebook.
“Ol’ Busta, once again demonstrated the prime example of a Typical coward N---er. BTW: I don't use the term much... But, when I do, It’s equivalent to one satanic S.O.B,” Sicilia wrote in a 2016 post, obtained by The Daily Beast, that didn’t censor the N-word.
In a Nov. 30, 2016, post, the future chief went after former President Barack Obama, posting a pro-police meme with the comment, “Probably served a lil swine salad to the kid for lunch, as well... oh that’s right, their [sic] both Muslim, so they don’t like “pigs” AKA: Cops.”
The racist posts incited outrage in Price—which is home to Greek, Italian, and eastern European communities—but little was done to discipline the officer when the messages were revealed in 2017. After a police investigation, Sicilia was reprimanded with three days off and a week of sensitivity training. “He got a long weekend,” one resident said.
At the time, Price City Mayor Michael Kourianos brushed the incident “under the rug” while Sicilia tried to play it off as a lapse in judgment, residents said.
Two years later, Sicilia was even promoted to the highest law enforcement position in the area, beating out 10 candidates who did not have a public history of racism.
“Brandon Sicilia was promoted to Price City Police Chief after he was caught publicly posting on social media using racial slurs,” Kate Anderson, a 38-year-old social worker, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “This means the city and state of Utah agree with his behavior. Allowing him to not only remain in law enforcement but also be promoted, demonstrates a commitment to racism and oppression.”
Now, as hundreds of thousands of people across the country have taken to the streets to speak out against racial injustice and police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, members of the Price community want Sicilia to resign.
At least 2,200 people have signed an online petition calling for his “immediate resignation,” and urging the Utah governor, the Price mayor, and several other elected officials to push for police reform. That starts by removing a police chief who uses “derogatory, racist language,” the petition states. The Price Police Department and mayor’s office did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.
Gabrielle Petro, who started the petition for Sicilia’s ouster two weeks ago, told The Daily Beast it’s “important to send that message that we will not stand silent while there are still racial police officers on the job.”
“You can’t say the N-word, you can’t call a Harvard Law School-educated woman a ‘strumpet monkey’ and still have a job in law enforcement. Period,” she said, referring to a Dec. 12, 2016, post by Sicilia in which he attacked Michelle Obama.
“All the way to the end, huh Berry,” Sicilia wrote in the post. “Sorry brah….You just can’t surprise US, anymore. Has your arrogant ass even began packing yet? Or you’ll probably just use one of your ‘uniform lives don’t matter’ ‘SLAVES’ to get yall settled into yours and Strumpet Moneky’s Hawaiin Manson. Please just get to where your going Barry…”
In February 2017, after several residents called to complain about his racist invective, the Price Police Department confirmed they launched an investigation into the officer’s posts. Days later, Sicilia address the controversy by posting on Facebook, admitting that his “thoughts often do not permeate as they should” which often leads to “stupid” Facebook comments.
Sicilia, however, also slammed some “Ol’ white snowflake’s softened intellect” for being offended by his comments, stating: “Well strawberry soft pull...A spade is a spade, and even though I don’t feel a bit bad about your Hillary loss, I’ll still respect that fact that ‘your offended’ and sucking hind tit, since I uttered the ‘N’ word.”
Sicilia was reprimanded with three days of leave—one of which was paid, while the other two were considered vacation days, Tristan Armstrong, a 21-year-old student at the University of Utah, told The Daily Beast.
“So basically a long weekend. On top of that, he had to take a week of sensitivity training. Not all of it was racially based, some were stuff like workplace harassment. And try as I might, I cannot get the details on these classes aside from the fact that they’re in person,” Armstrong said. “How much do you change when you get a long weekend off and a week of training?
The Daily Beast was not able to verify details about the class Sicilia took as part of his punishment.
After Sicilia was appointed chief in 2019, the NAACP, civil-rights activists, and community members again expressed outrage over his posts, prompting Kourianos to defend the officer—telling FOX13 that he “should be given a second chance.” The mayor added that Sicilia brought up the posts when he was interviewing to be police chief and expressed that things were different and he wanted to move forward.
Armstrong, however, said that while elected leaders were willing to forget about the incident, several residents were not ready to “pretend as nothing happened.” He and other residents began sharing Sicilia’s comments on Facebook, and then in May, when protests in Salt Lake City began to surge after Floyd’s death, the 21-year-old said he noticed several young people driving from Carbon County to speak out against police brutality and racism.
“I said, ‘If you want to protest something—you have a racist police chief where you live. Start there,’” he said. “We did ride a lot of the moment from George Floyd and the BLM movement. Now is the time and people are paying attention, even people who two or three years ago tried to ignore the controversy around Sicilia.”
The University of Utah student said that two weeks ago, after the petition started, Sicilia called him to sit down and talk about “the group’s grievances.” Armstrong said he told the police chief his concerns, stressing that the demands for his resignation were not to “crucify him as a person” but just to hold the institution he represents to a higher standard.
“He even admitted he didn’t expect to be appointed in 2019,” Armstrong said. “But he has not taken any accountability for his actions. He admits that what he did was really wrong, but he took the approach that he is a good person. I don’t doubt that the man has contributed in many good ways to the community, but his actions speak to a bigger issue.”
“How are people of color supposed to feel when they are visiting the town, or moving their business here,” Armstrong added. “He is a threat to the community.”
Anderson, who lives about 90 minutes away from Price and learned about Sicilia’s comments in June, stressed that by not removing the chief’s certification, state officials are “endorsing racism at the highest levels of state law enforcement.”
“No BIPOC is safe in Price, which means no one is safe in Price, UT. If your Police Chief is bad—all cops are bad,” she said. “There is no appropriate chain of command. There is no accountability. Unfortunately, Sicilia has learned his actions lead to promotions.”