Sheriff's chief of staff resigns over racist email jokes

sheriff-car-lao.jpgSheriff Jim McDonnell announced Sunday that he had accepted the resignation of his chief of staff, Tom Angel, over racist email jokes he forwarded while with the Burbank Police Department in 2012-13. Since the Los Angeles Times published the emails last week, criticism of Angel and McDonnell had been growing. The emails that Angel forwarded mocked blacks, Mexicans, Muslims and women — but apparently he didn't find funny any jokes about white men or cops.

When confronted by the Times, Angel's apology wasn't very apologetic: "Anybody in the workplace unfortunately forwards emails from time to time that they probably shouldn't have forwarded," Angel said. "I apologize if I offended anybody, but the intent was not for the public to have seen these jokes."

Angel was a key part of McDonnell's team as a longtime insider who could help push the outsider sheriff's reform agenda in a department badly in need of a shakeout, and McDonnell tried to save him. "Everybody's got their own take on humor. This was divisive and nonproductive," McDonnell told the Times. "It's a shame the whole thing happened at all." But the pressure continued to mount from minority communities and Muslim groups, and on Sunday McDonnell said, "This incident is one that I find deeply troubling.”

Despite the Sheriff’s Department’s many recent efforts to fortify public trust and enhance internal and external accountability and transparency, this incident reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do.

McDonnell said he would introduce random audits of employee email accounts and would meet with community groups to “share thoughts and ideas about improving our understanding of the varied cultures and orientations and deepening our appreciation of the many ethnicities and religions that are part of the vibrant fabric of the population we serve.” The department would also examine its training and existing policies for “ensuring accountability and enhancing cultural and ethnic sensitivity,” he said.


Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said Angel’s resignation was not a moment to rejoice but to “roll up our sleeves and help the sheriff develop a culture of partnership and accountability and transparency within his office.”

Haroon Manjlai, a spokesman for the greater L.A. chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the sheriff's decision to accept his chief of staff's resignation sent an important message going forward.

“Hopefully now, if incidents like these happen again, the precedent is to step down or be dismissed,” Manjlai said. “It promotes zero tolerance when it comes to any kind of xenophobic or insensitive behavior to any community.”

Added: The ACLU released a statement praising the move.

"The ACLU SoCal is heartened to see that Tom Angel has stepped down in light of the racist, sexist, anti-Muslim emails he sent while at the Burbank Police Department. We hope Sheriff Jim McDonnell will seize this opportunity to reaffirm his pledge to reform the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and demonstrate that he will take a zero tolerance stance in addressing misconduct, bias and other behavior that undermines the public's trust in LASD."

Coverage by the Daily News, CNN.

Also noted: Terri McDonald, the veteran state corrections official who joined the LASD a few years to clean up the jails, announced last week that she is leaving the department to go home to Sacramento.

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Cultures stories on LA Observed:
Is Hansen Dam park the most Mexican corner of LA?
Hawaiian history pays a visit to LACMA
Face painting in the DTLA piñata district
Sheriff's chief of staff resigns over racist email jokes
How LACMA located an authentic zoot suit
LA's forgotten Jewish soccer dynasty
The Angeleno who would be president of Armenia
What will you pack for 2015?