Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s chief of staff, Tom Angel, has resigned amid mounting criticism over emails he sent mocking Muslims, blacks, Latinos, women and others from his Los Angeles County work account during his previous job with the Burbank Police Department.
After previously saying that he had no immediate plans to discipline his chief of staff, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement that he had accepted Tom Angel’s resignation and intended to turn the controversy into a “learning opportunity” for his department employees, the New York Daily News reports.
“This incident is one that I find deeply troubling,” McDonnell said. “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.”
Sheriff Jim 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.
Angel’s resignation came after several emails were obtained under the state’s open records act. The forwarded emails prompted numerous civil rights advocates to call on the sheriff to discipline his chief of staff. By Sunday, the consensus was that Angel should step down or be fired, The Express Tribune reported.
Angel did not respond to messages seeking comment. He previously said that he did not mean to embarrass or demean anyone. He said it was unfortunate that his work emails could be obtained by the public under the state’s records laws.
It is unclear what lasting effect, if any, the controversy will have on McDonnell’s standing among local civil rights advocates.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell was elected in November 2014 as an outsider promising to steer the agency past an era in which some deputies beat jail inmates and others were found to have singled out African Americans and Latinos in the Antelope Valley for harassment. He brought Angel, a veteran sheriff’s official, back from Burbank as a key member of his reform administration.
Angel’s emails were sent in 2012 and 2013 when he was the No. 2 police official in Burbank. There, too, he had been brought in to reform an agency reeling from misconduct in its ranks, including allegations of brutality, racism and sexual harassment.
“I took my Biology exam last Friday,” said one of the emails. “I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently ‘Blacks’ and ‘Mexicans’ were NOT the correct answers.”
Another email ridiculed concerns about the racial profiling of Muslims as terrorism suspects. A third included the subject line “How dumb is dumb?” and listed 20 reasons “Muslim Terrorists are so quick to commit suicide,” including “Towels for hats,” “Constant wailing from some idiot in a tower” and “You can’t wash off the smell of donkey.”
Four of the emails contained strings of jokes that Angel received and then forwarded. A city spokesman said the other senders and recipients were redacted because they did not work for the city, and releasing their identities would be an invasion of privacy.
A fifth email was a short dialogue between Angel and another Burbank police official in which Angel asked what he called a trivia question: “How many virgins do Muslims get in heaven?”
Some who worked with Angel in Burbank defended him, calling him a respectful leader who comfortably interacted with different ethnic groups.
“I saw nothing but the highest levels of conduct,” said Burbank City Councilman David Gordon.
CNN said that Angel’s departure will be a big loss for Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who as an outsider relied on him as a right-hand man to help sort out the 18,000-member department’s inner workings.