Wilton Manors Investigates Racist Emails Sent From Police Chief's Account

Wilton Manors Police Chief Under Investigation For Racist Emails

City officials are investigating racist and offensive e-mails that were sent from the city email account of Wilton Manors Police Chief Richard E. Perez.

City Manager Joseph Gallegos said he was in the process of collecting all the e-mails. He said the investigation will take about a week.

"I'm not happy about it. There will be consequences for whoever is involved," Gallegos said.

City officials confirmed that dozens of e-mails including racial slurs, photos of nude women and other insults directed toward President Barack Obama were circulated through the Police Department from Perez's e-mail account.

It is not clear if Perez sent them or if someone improperly accessed his account to send them.

Perez could not be reached by comment. Calls to the Police Department about the matter were referred to Gallegos.

Gallegos said, "He [Perez] did not deny it." Gallegos would not elaborate, citing the investigation.

According to the South Florida Times, which reported on the e-mails this week, one e-mail from Perez's account read:

"A little boy said to his mother, 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white.' His mother replied, 'Don't even go there, Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'"

The newspaper said the e-mail is titled, "Mom's Memory" and it includes a photograph of a white woman walking near a pond with a young boy holding hands, under the caption, "A Mother's Love."

It is prefaced with, "Normally I don't send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read it. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine. This is so beautiful."

Mayor Gary Resnick said the investigation may be expanded to include other city employees who also allegedly sent offensive e-mails.

"The city of Wilton Manors prides itself on being a respectful, tolerant and diverse community," Resnick said. "We will not tolerate any employee being disrespectful or unprofessional."

Commissioner Scott Newton said he was aware of the e-mails but had not seen them.

"There will be consequences. We have not tolerated this in the past and we won't this time," Newton said. "The city manager will do what's appropriate. They haven't finished the investigation. Nothing will be swept under the rug."

Gallegos said personal use of city computers is prohibited, including sending anything deemed political, racist or offensive. "We don't do business that way," he added.

In 2008, former Assistant Community Services Director Ann Barnes was reprimanded for forwarding a racist e-mail. She was suspended with pay and later negotiated an early retirement.

Perez became police chief in January 2006, the first Hispanic to lead the department. He came to Wilton Manors from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, where he spent more than two decades.

In 2007, Perez himself was the target of negative comments posted on a website for law enforcement agencies that encourages frank discussion.

"Wasn't the new chief supposed to build the department into a great place to work? What on earth does he think he is doing?," one writer wrote. "This isn't the Mafia."

At the time, Perez said he was disappointed that some of his officers might be posting, but said they are entitled to do so off duty from their own computers.

On the same website, a thread about the e-mails Perez allegedly sent had been viewed 84 times and readers had added 15 comments as of Friday afternoon.

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