The Miami Beach Police Department is investigating hundreds of racist and misogynist emails sent by its officers. The Associated Press reports that around 16 officers were involved in sending and receiving around 230 messages. This included "depictions of crude racial jokes involving President Barack Obama or black celebrities" like Tiger Woods, as well as "a woman with a black eye and the caption, 'Domestic violence. Because sometimes, you have to tell her more than once.'" Another showed "a board game called 'Black Monopoly' in which every square says 'go to jail.'"
Several of the officers apparently only received the emails, which were sent mostly between 2010 and 2012. But two high-ranking members of the department were central to sending them, said police chief Daniel Oates; one has retired and the other was fired. While Oates says the investigation is meant to make clear that "this kind of behavior is over," it could also have ramifications for criminal cases where the officers were witnesses. Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Miami-Dade, says that roughly 540 cases are being reviewed to see if racial bias could have compromised them.
This is far from the first time police officers have been caught sending bigoted messages, which are often defended as jokes. This March, three officers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida were fired and one resigned after exchanging racist texts and making a similarly inappropriate video. In April, San Francisco's police department fired seven officers for texts about "lynching African-Americans and burning crosses." And in Ferguson, Missouri, a Justice Department investigation after the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown uncovered emails that mocked African-Americans as lazy and criminal.
In some cases, the officers in question have defended the messages as jokes, but they're part of a larger pattern that has eroded trust in law enforcement. The Ferguson investigation, for example found evidence of bias in more concrete actions, like use of force and traffic stops. The New York Police Department — the largest in the country — has been taken to task in court for racial profiling. And President Barack Obama has promised to put $75 million toward body cameras that will record encounters, attempting to address the killing of several unarmed black men at the hands of police officers across the country.