Senior LA county sheriff’s official leaves office over racist emails

© Mario Anzuoni
A former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department official resigned after a slew of racist joke emails which he had forwarded were discovered. The emails were sent in 2012 and 2013 while he was the assistant chief of the Burbank Police Department.

Tom Angel became the chief of staff to LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell last year, but on Sunday he resigned after some troubling emails surfaced.

I took my Biology exam last Friday,” one of the joke emails read. “I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently, ‘Blacks’ and ‘Mexicans’ were NOT the correct answers.

Japanese scientists have recently created a camera with such a fantastic shutter speed that it is now possible to take a photograph of a woman with her mouth closed,” another said.

The emails were obtained and published by The Los Angeles Times last week.

Angel told the LA Times on Friday that he apologized to anyone offended by the emails and that he never intended them to be made public. He also noted that he describes himself as Mexican.

Sheriff McDonnell called the emails “deeply troubling,” on Sunday and said, “Chief Angel has offered his resignation, and I have accepted it. I thank him for his many years of service, and wish him and his family well.

McDonnell had an investment in Angel. McDonnell was elected in November 2014 on a platform that promised a new era of the LAPD – a police department frequently associated with brutality, such as the Rodney King case. Angel was brought in by McDonnell as a key member of the reform administration McDonnell had promised voters, the LA Times reported.

The emails frequently used Muslims as joke fodder. One subject line which said, “how dumb is dumb?” was followed by a list of why “Muslim Terrorists [sic] are so quick to commit suicide,” including “no Christmas,” “rags for clothes,” “towels for hats,” and “you can’t wash off the smell of donkey” as reasons.

On Friday, McDonnell said that he was not planning any action, because the emails predated his employment with the Sheriff’s Office.

"Everybody's got their own take on humor. This was divisive and nonproductive," McDonnell told the LA Times. "It's a shame the whole thing happened at all."

As a result, McDonnell’s office received flak from various Muslim civil rights groups and advocates. Haroon Manjlai, a spokesman for the greater Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the LA Times, "It's very concerning when they have such biases against the constituency that they have to police."

The emails were originally discovered in 2014 when Los Angeles attorney Travis Poteat filed a request for the records on behalf of a client. As a result, Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse began to audit police employees’ emails for insensitive language.

Although Angel would not comment on the emails, he did tell the LA Times, “ask if there has ever been any kind of issue with my dealing with any minority communities in the history of my association with law enforcement, and you'll find there's been none.