The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Racist E-mails Lead to Resignation of a Florida Police Chief

By Robert Steinback on October 13, 2010 - 2:24 pm, Posted in Anti-Black

An embattled South Florida police chief — already serving a 30-day unpaid suspension for using city computers to share racist, tasteless Internet jokes with his command staff, including one E-mail suggesting President Obama should have been shot by his own honor guard — resigned late Tuesday.

Richard PerezA city investigation determined that Wilton Manors Police Chief Richard E. Perez distributed 86 messages with “inappropriate content” using the city’s E-mail system during a four-month period this spring and summer. According to a South Florida Times report published on its website yesterday, Perez was given a resign-or-be-fired ultimatum from City Manager Joseph Gallegos after an internal probe detected that Perez also violated the city’s leave policy. Later reports confirmed that Perez had resigned.

Perez’s resignation comes in the wake of reporting by veteran South Florida Times reporter Elgin Jones. Jones’ investigative work uncovering racist and offensive E-mails sent by city officials has been causing a stir in Wilton Manors, which abuts Fort Lauderdale, for more than two years. The weekly publication is the region’s most influential African-American community newspaper.

One E-mail from Perez’ account, sent on May 27 to his second in command, Capt. Dorris “Dee” Seibert, contained a short audio file in which a man with a pronounced African-American dialect delivers a cheerful greeting. “Good mornin’ ma’am! And iddn’t it a lovely morning?” to which a white-sounding woman replies, “Up yours, nigger!”

Another, sent by Perez on July 21 – entitled, “Urban schools are finally starting to teach practical math that these kids can use in real-world situations!” – abounded with racial stereotypes demeaning blacks and Hispanics: “Lajames has an AK-47 with a 200-round clip. He usually missed 6 of every 10 shots and he uses 13 rounds per drive-by shootin. How many mofos can Lajames ice on a drive-by before he gotta reload? … Leroy has 2 ounces of cocaine. If he sells an 8 ball to Antonio for $320 and 2 grams to Juan for $85 per gram, what be the street value of the rest of his shit? … Dwayne pimps 3 ho’s. If the price is $85 per trick, how many tricks per day must each ho turn to support Dwayne’s $800 per day Crack habit?” Six other “test questions” were included.

Obama was a frequent target of the jokes and insults traded among Perez and his subordinates. One E-mail to Perez from Sgt. Peter Bigelsen read, “I sat, as did millions of other Americans, and watched as the government under went a peaceful transition of power a year ago.  At first, I felt a swell of pride and patriotism while Barack Obama took his oath of office. However, all that pride quickly vanished as I later watched 21 Marines, in full dress uniform with rifles, fire a 21-gun salute to the President. It was then that I realized how far America’s military had deteriorated. Every damn one of them missed the bastard.”

Another e-mail Perez forward to his command staff on July 23 said, “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!’”

All of the available samples of Perez’s E-mails had a singular political slant – against liberals in general and Obama specifically.  They ranged from the mildly funny – “Q: What was the most positive result of the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program? A: It took 95% of the Obama bumper stickers off the road.” (E-mail of April 21; joke attributed to David Letterman) –  to mean-spirited: An E-mail with the subject line, “Stupid is as stupid does,” contained a photograph purportedly showing Barack and Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony saluting with their left hands over their hearts.  (Stupid, in that case, might better apply to anyone who believed the doctored photograph was genuine: Snopes.com and other urban-legend sites busted the hoax by turning up the unaltered original photo, and others taken at the same time, showing the Obamas saluting correctly.)

Perez also distributed at least one solicitation for political support: An E-mail sent out July 22 appealed for support for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit members of Congress from exempting themselves from laws they pass.

Perez’s auto-signed E-mails included a disclaimer of which Perez apparently failed to take note: “NOTE:  Florida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from local officials regarding City business are public records and are available to the public and media upon requests.  Your e-mail communications may therefore be subject to public disclosure.”

Gallegos on Sept. 17 suspended Perez for 30 days without pay and ordered the chief to undergo racial and cultural sensitivity training. According to Gallegos’ investigative report, Perez sent 86 E-mails with “clearly derogatory, culturally insensitive and … racially inappropriate content” during a 16-week period from April through August. Gallegos wrote that Perez apologized for his conduct and admitted he had “no excuses” for it.

On Sept. 23, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist removed Perez from his seat on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.

Perez was contrite in a late-September press conference in which he discussed his suspension – although he insisted that he viewed, collected and forwarded examples of racial insensitivity and political satire in popular media only for use in a training class on stereotyping, ethics and diversity he teaches at Broward College. He said he forwarded some jokes and insults to Seibert to see if she felt it was appropriate for the class.  When Perez acknowledged his inappropriate behavior during the press conference, he referred to using city computers to receive and forward the material – although, when asked if his behavior would have been acceptable had he used his personal computer, Perez said, “No.”

At that time, Perez asked for a second chance. “Some e-mails that I received from friends, and [I] sent them back to some friends, were political satire. And I inappropriately used the city’s computer system, the Internet. I really should know better.  It was not racially motivated. And I let my citizens down in my city, and that’s why I wanted to apologize.”

At the time, Perez anticipated returning to duty. “I am deeply apologetic. I am going to do everything I can when I get back to work to have learned from this experience, to make myself a better person. … All I’m asking for is a second chance to go back and show the community that I did make some mistakes. I should not have done this.”

Perez, who previously served 24 years with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, earned $115,544 as Wilton Manors’ police chief.  About 13 percent of Wilton Manors’ population of roughly 13,000 is black. The city is also heavily Democratic, and has a reputation of being gay-friendly.

Two years earlier, Jones had exposed another Wilton Manors employee, then-Assistant Community Services Director Ana Barnes, using city computers to mail out  racially derogatory material. Gallegos demoted Barnes, among other reasons, for circulating a document on the city’s E-mail system that contained “clearly derogatory, culturally insensitive and racially charged content” – almost the exact wording he would later use with Perez.

Perez also is under investigation for allegations of perjured testimony in an unrelated 2007 civil case between a former Fort Lauderdale police officer and the local Fraternal Order of Police union.

  • patty jamison

    he should of been fired.. not given a chance to hide behind resignation.. I cant believe in this day and age we are still putting up with this kind of crap from people… give me a break.. what a low life scumbag… thats all I got..

  • Hetshepsu

    I agree with the writer that makes a legitimate point about American Cubans siding with right-wing extremist and behaving like racist, dictators. So, what is the real reason they oppose Castro? Could it be Castro tried to balance greedy capitalist wants with that of the needs of the people?

  • ruben

    skinnyminny….i also enjoy reading your posts on here they are always correct and to the point.but anyway i always scratch my head as to why most cubans would relate to far right wing politics? if anything considering the risks many of them take to escape an oppressive country ( taking to the sea in unseaworthy vessels) as they claim they should no better then to join political organizations like the republican/tea party that make a living out of scapegoating,villainizing and portraying minority groups in negative ways….why would they want to do to other people what they did not want done to them?…..or could it be that maybe they were just as racist and divisive in cuba that they were thrown off the island and don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out…..i’ve never met castro but if the cubans like perez are the ones opposing him i would rather have castro as my friend.

  • Miles Fan

    very interesting comments posted…to Dick Lancaster, having a case of “jungle fever” doesn’t give you some special insight into racial insensitivities…sounds like you have some latent racism in yourself…btw glad this idiot was exposed, should put him in city lockup so he could have gotten a real surprise in his wise a$$

  • David

    This just proves the ignorance of so many people. Anyone who believes that Barrack Obama’s role as President of the United States “deteriorates” our nation is simply not seeing things the way they are. No matter the skin color, religion, or background of a human, if he has had the mental and social ability to become the single most powerful man in the world – the President of the United States of America – then no one is in the position to say that he shouldn’t be in power. The only reason that there have not been an equal amount of African American and White Presidents is that society has created illusions of racial superiority. But the fact is that every race is equally as evolved. We are all the same, so it’s time to get over the barriers that have been so deeply entrenched in our society. Racism and prejudice are things of the past (things created by the ignorant). Educating the world of the fact that we are all essentially the same is the only way to truly change people like Perez.

  • skinnyminny

    Ruben,
    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! That is soooo true! I think that is the reason Los Angeles PD is having so many accusations of excessive/deadly force – there have been a lot of (males) black and latino suspects that have been shot in the head. In fact, one case of a Pakistani decent male was shot by police – the coroner listed his nationality as black, in turn, the coroner’s office didn’t notify the family, nor did the police notify the family in what would be considered a timely manner. I’m willing to bet the latest Guatemalan immigrant was a victim of the same.

  • ruben

    perez is cuban i believe and cubans mostly relate to the republican white right more than they do to being latino…i am a mexican/american,latino,hispanic etc and cubans like perez will just as quickly side with white right wing racists like the ones in arizona against me as he would against blacks….they come here from cuba crying about the injustices they suffered there and then just as quickly join the political party that likes to do the same to people here.perez is a low life…..he is latino in name only…..to dick lancaster,a chicano is a mexican/american or mexican born anywhere in the u.s not just los angeles.

  • Difluoroethane

    Maybe this guy should consider running in the next Republican primary for governor of New York. Racist e-mails don’t seem to be a disqualifier for getting that nomination, if you know what I mean.

  • Matthew Bright

    I can think of few things that would be as terrifying as being a black person living in that town. And being the parent of a black school age child would be even worse. One could only see them off in the morning wondering if they would be alive at the end of the day after an encounter with their local police for whom to black people is essentially like living under a foreign occupation of enemy troops.

    What a disgrace.

  • Joyce

    well..if all people would just remember this “golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..then maybe everyone could just agree to disagree respectfully,without animosity, and would remember that we are all on this earth together and we would all be wise to have more understanding towards our differences..then work together for the betterment of all…God calls us to “love one another”unconditionally and when we do we have more tolerance towards all ,especially when we disagree with each other : )

  • Hetshepsu

    I believe what the chief did speaks to a greater societal problem we as Americans should be ashamed of. We hate to face the truth about the darkside of our heritage. We worship materialism so much that we would be willing to capture another people to enslave them for our own greedy pleasures. Then, we would prevent them from being taught and call them inferiors. In our position of authority over them, our legal system would justify a plethora of capital crimes against them. The sexual assault of female children and the murder of boys and men alike were a common occurrence. The bottomline here is we the people have failed to live up to our own values as christains or religious people. We must begin to seek a cure for our pathology of race prejudice and discrimination. Only then will America begin to approach its potential as the greatest nation the world have ever known. Lord God bless America!

  • Hmmm

    Regarding the blazing saddles reference, given this gentleman’s penchant for caustic and racist email and jokes beyond the audio, its quite clear he wasn’t listening to the audio because the movie was so effective at racial exposition but more likely due to a prepubescent titillation at hearing the word “nigger.” he probably howled and screamed with delight and pushed repeat several times at the word.

  • http://www.skeptictank.org/ Fredric L. Rice

    I see that someone else also noted that the “Up yours, nigger!” is from Blazing Saddles, also noting that it is one of the most classic movies of racial humor ever filmed, and Blazing Saddles was an allegorical review *AGAINST* racist hate.

    “Okay, we’ll let in the niggers and the spics, but we don’t want the Irish.”

    Also has anyone checked to see what Richard Perez’s history of Scientology crime syndicate involvement is ?

  • Snorlax

    Don said: “I am opposed to both legal and illegal immigration.”

    That’s okay, that’s a legitimate political view. Throw out the estimated half million illegal WHITES in the US too.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t just about the law. The immigration issue attracts bigots and haters who use it to beat up minorities.

    Funny thing about those bigots and haters…they really hate people who have Latino surnames like Perez.

    I wonder what Perez would think if he was the recipient of dozens of emails with virulent anti-Latino hate speech.

  • ragnor

    We in Europe view this type of human with utter distaste, we have laws in our part of the world that would put this chap in prison for a very long time. We remember the rise of the far right in 1930s and 40s and the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler in Germany and it is feared that if this race hate continues in the USA you will go the way of Fascist Germany in thos dark far off days.

  • Cheryl

    Good, glad he was fired! He is a disgrace and danger to the community. HIs apology was probably drafted by an attorney – in any event the only thing he regrets is that he got caught.

  • Don

    I am opposed to both legal and illegal immigration. This country is overpopulated, and 21 million Americans are out of work.

  • Dick Lancaster

    When did Latinos get their special group? I can’t recall serving in the military with a ‘Latino”. We had Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and a subgroup from LA who called themselves Chicanos. When did all these groups earn the minority title of Latino?
    And what sets them apart from Greeks, Italians, Corsicans and Portugeese? Aren’t they all of Southern Medeteraniam European heratige? Why don’t Italians have their own minority group?
    My ex-wife was a black Puerto Rican. She had her choice of several catagories when registering to vote. As a mixed race couple, we had loads of fun with government agencies. I once caused a ruckus when I claimed I was a native American. I was challenged and told the officials that I was born in Baltimore when that city was part of America. Therefore, I am native American. The next year I noticed they had qualified the catagory.
    Grow up, America. Can’t you see that organizations like SPLC would fold up and have to seek gainful employment if they couldn’t drag a racist theme out of the least little insult?

  • Carter

    I’ve often wondered how any one of these loud mouths would react if suddenly they REALLY did meet the President of the United States? Right or Left; Bush or Obama…..Would these guys looking straight into the eyes of the President of the United States tell him he’s a stupid jerk that should be (harmed in some manner)? Or call him some name from “communist-half breed” to “country-club frat-boy”……
    Somehow I think not. As a matter of fact I’d BET on it.
    Because when any BS is screamed it’s always coming from the WAY far back of any area where the President is…….a great many people meet the President(s)…..what happens is they either shake his hand or they don’t.
    THAT is what I’m talking about when I speak of having respect for the OFFICE of the President

  • skinnyminny

    Pamela Dayton Time,
    I agree with you 110%. However, I think most voters are being manipulated, or they are in on it. I wrote a couple of weeks back that Whitman spent $120 million on her campaign but that it didn’t go into the communities. She made a remark to a newspaper editor that Fresno looked like Detroit. Paladino, as was reported, is making money off his campaign. I personally think that these candidates coming from the business world would be no better. I say this because look what happened with Haliburton, they received numerous contracts, and I think they were no-bid. So again, my personal opinion, I think this would be worse because they already have the business connections, and they will do whatever it takes to continue with those connections. It seems to me that they are all a part of the 700 club – for millionaires and billionaires.

  • skinnyminny

    Clark R,
    Sorry! I have to disagree with you. When you look at the problems facing minorities and law enforcement, from hiring to problems they face on the roads – i.e. racial profiling, this type of behavior is not acceptable. If the rank and file officers saw this was acceptable, there’s a possibility they’d think this type of behavior is acceptable and the norm. As for the Newport/Costa Mesa area, I guess you haven’t heard about the problems that suspected Latino immigrants face, huh? Newport is a party town, yet, it was Dennis Rodman (former NBA player) that faced charges for Noise Ordinances, drinking in public while on a boat. Does this apply to everyone now? No!

    I have friends in Newport, and they party like it’s no tomorrow.

  • Kate De Braose

    I think it was Lord Acton who said “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    We can all see the truth in that statement when we observe the speech and actions of the powerful, whether they are in law enforcement, broadcasting, or in politics.

    They all have a bully pulpit, most especially if they are wealthy. In America, wealth itself is the actual god.

  • Russ

    Chief Perez seems to have forgotten his own roots and the discemination the latinos face every day in this country especally now. There is a complete lack of respect for the President on the right. This episode is an example of that. Mr. Perez should have been fired and not given a change to resign. He is a disgrace to law enforcement and his hispanic last name.

  • Ethan

    Hello Folks!. Well let’s keep it simple,where there’s one,there’s another. So until I.A. starts placing real speical agents into this corrupt system that operates in every rual county in every state and takes them down from within. You know these officers are sworn to serve& protect,but nowday’s,some of these officers actions,are beginning to resemble those of “MOBSTERS”. Code of blue,code of green,all spells the same thing. “BAD COPS”.

  • Clark R.

    I had two white customers in my vehicle as I was driving up out of Newport Beach, CA. to reach the freeway to take them to the airport. On the way we saw a white guy carrying a giant cross on his shoulder, it was so big that it had to have wheels attached to the bottom of the cross so he could drag it better… this guy was dragging this cross all the way up Newport Boulevard just to make a statement.

    I turned to my customers and said… “it didn’t do Jesus any good, what makes him think he’s so special.”

    You should have heard the roar of laughter coming from all three of us.

    I actually was relieved, because after I said it… I realized what I had said.

    Now “that” was a close call!

    Get a grip people, it’s not that serious.

    I think that is what the youngsters are trying to tell us, in there open use of the word Nigga. Hell, the white kids call each other that too, and (if I might add) in an endearing manner.

    What is it that they understand, that us ol’ gray head “clowns” don’t?

    Clark R., 56 years old.

  • Clark R.

    Niggers, Crackers, Hillbillies, Waps, Nips.. hell, everybody is somethin’.

    Time we stop getting bent out of shape over “jokes”.

    Look at the guy… he’s a good guy.

    And, he’s probably right. There are a lot of clowns in public office (black and white) and we all know that.

    Yes, I’m an African American.

    African and Irish actually.

  • kevin

    I am in no way defending what this police chief did, there is no room for this kind of hateful humor being used in his official capacity or on city computers. I just wanted to note that the “Good mornin’ ma’am! And iddn’t it a lovely morning?” to which a white-sounding woman replies, “Up yours, nigger!” Is from “Blazing Saddles” which was a wonderful movie full of satire that uncovered and lambasted racial stereotypes.

  • Mohammed

    That “good mornin’ ma’am” audio clip was from the film “Blazing Saddles”, which has been recognized by a number of film critics as one of the funniest films ever made. The movie pointed out many of the absurdities inherent in racism, and was primarily written by Mel Brooks (Jewish), Gene Wilder (Jewish), and Richard Pryor (Black).

    Such a movie could never be made today because of folks’ overweening sensitivities to words. Fortunately you can still find it everywhere; I bought my copy at WalMart. Are folks going to boycott WalMart for selling a racist film?

  • Charmaine

    FYI, the audio message referred to ( “Good mornin’ ma’am! And iddn’t it a lovely morning?” to which a white-sounding woman replies, “Up yours, *****) is from the movie Blazing Saddles.

  • http://defendersofdemocracy.com Edie

    Well, it is, at least, a good sign that this kind of trash talk is not allowed to stand! May this be an example to the knuckle draggers infesting our land. The party’s over boys and girls; so, shut the hell up or get out of the way so your betters can come to the fore.

  • Carter

    In this instance it’s NOT the president. What I was attempting to make clear was it is the OFFICE of the President. Two different things. So recognize that the post dealt with the OFFICE of the President.

    A definitive example would be military service. The President is one’s CinC. You afford him or her respect due to the OFFICE. It’s the OFFICE that is respected due to the framework of our government.

    I -=DO=- realize that many people who had not been in any military service may not relate to the concept of the OFFICE of the President being an agenda of respect regardless of what sorry-ass is elected. That’s quite natural.

    But my agenda is not to convince anyone of anything. Screw it…. If an individual can’t see that the reference framework in & of calling someone names is low-functioning and degrading; there is not anything I could say that would sway their world view.

    I don’t care what so ever whether “cracker” was “developed” by this, that, or whatever. I couldn’t care less about how the word “Nigger” came about. I simply don’t talk to my fellow human beings in that way and that’s the way I raise my kids.

    I don’t make some description of a epithet or it’s origin and then diminish it’s impact…..Calling people racial names is calling people racial names.

    Frankly I don’t care at all where some word “came from”. Like calling a woman a “coon” had it’s roots in “raccoon” makes it OK or Hungarians are European or whatever…..that’s so immaterial to the issue it’s a nonconsecutive dialog.

    I’ve had too many assholes call me racial names when I was a child to count them….That shit happened all the time.
    Where my kid goes to school there are some white children and they get a serious ration of garbage from some low-minded garbage who believe that their minority status entitles them to call these white children names. Well, my children will NOT engage is some name calling and then defend that by hiding behind their minority status. That’s wrong. I feel damn strongly about this & there are a Hell of a lot of non-white people who think like I do.
    There are no longer specific demographic “sides” to take in addressing racism. The old line about a man or woman of color cannot be a racist because they haven’t the “power” to disseminate racist agenda is dead & gone!

    I have seen too many genuine racists from every damn background anyone could imagine to allow that crap license simply “because the term (fill in the BS)”….had some idiosyncratic element that may diminish it’s origin from racial source to source.

    There is NO excuse for calling another individual racial names if one believes oneself not to be a bigot.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I personally don’t see any reason why public office should have some magical property attached to it, especially when those who hold it tend to be of one particular class, particularly at the highest circle of power. I observed with anger how many liberals started complaining about the “disrespect shown to the president” once Obama got elected. The conservatives who attack Obama, calling him a Communist and what-not, may be ignorant idiots, but there is no reason why any president should be automatically afforded respect. Many liberals complained about conservatives calling them traitors for bashing Bush during a war, so those who complained about bashing Obama are hypocrites of the highest sort.

    I realize that you, Carter, view this kind of thing as equal whether against Bush or Obama, so my only question would be why afford such respect to either president?

    Also I have to disagree about racial slurs because the term “Cracker” was developed by white people, as was the other common white slur “Honky”(deriving from slang terms against Hungarians and people from that region).

  • http://daytontime.blogspot.com pamela dayton time

    Looking forward to what you have to say about New York’s hateful Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino. Dude is a (violent, hate-filled) trainwreck.

  • skinnyminny

    Personally I am tired of the apologies. The apologies doesn’t make up for the fact that these people know what they are doing is wrong before they do it. I am glad he no longer has this type of job that has to deal with blacks. This is why I am shocked that Meg Whitman is trying to hurt Jerry Brown by a comment his staff made – she (Whitman) said that this comment was like a racial slur to a minority. Yet, she is hiding the fact that one of her adult sons allegedly made a racial slur to a black woman. She says she wants to overhaul California’s school system, yet, she hides that her sons allegedly was kicked out of numerous schools, and allegedly banned from campus living.

    As far as I’m concerned, these people need to look in the mirror and think deep and hard about running for office, or any other position that involves serving and/or dealing with minorities if they have a history of, or deep personal hatred or dislike of minorities. With the internet, cellphones, and different technology, they can’t hide, there are no secrets. And I think that everyone that has a dislike of minorities, be it muslims, LGBT, blacks, Latinos, Asians, disabled, and even the elderly don’t deserve public positions like this.

    I think they should also go back and see if he used his beliefs in the sentencing of blacks. I think they will find more than what they’ve bargained for.

  • Carter

    If you happen to have read the above: ask yourself if “Cracker bastard” has the same impact as “Nigger”…..

    If not, then perhaps you ought to slow down a bit & realize that people are people: a racial epithet is no stronger in one group than another.
    But that is one thing I have learned from many white people: they have their own racial self-hatred.

  • Carter

    I couldn’t give 5 cents if the police chief likes the way the country is being run or if he disagrees with what the Presidential policies are but he is demeaning the OFFICE of the President. I feel the same way about Bush. A Hell of a lot of people had good time talking about how stupid he was, what an unbelievably poor communicator he was but there needs to be a line were one does not cross, particularly as a public employee.

    The tough part is that we don’t always see it like that. No one would wince if a public official said Bush was a “vile & stupid cracker bastard that should be (harmed in some manner).” Yet when we get into the same agenda today we DO wince & react.
    I think it’s time we started some introspection in the manner in which we deal with people.

  • Paen

    In the mean time people wonder why there’s so much racial profiling.