Chief Says 'Circle Game' Cops Not Suspended, Then Doubles-Down On Discipline

Four Jasper police officers accused of making a racist hand gesture still face potential disciplinary action.

Jasper, AL – The Jasper police chief said that the four police officers seen making a circular “okay” hand gesture in local newspaper photograph have not been suspended, despite the mayor’s Monday announcement to the contrary.

"That was a miscommunication on my part,” Jasper Police Chief J.C. Poe told WBMA on Wednesday, as news of the officers’ suspension garnered nationwide attention.

“At no time has an officer lost pay. Now, I'm not saying that they won't, but that's something that we've got to determine and we've got a due process that we need to follow through our Civil Service Board," the chief said.

"I hate the fact that some personnel of our department have done something that has been offensive to some people in our community and our goal is to make sure that doesn't happen in the future,'' Chief Poe told AL.com. "I'm not about that, this mayor is not about that, the city is not about that. And, we definitely won't tolerate it."

The photo was intended as a way to recognize the Jasper drug terrorism task force officers’ hard work in connection with a recent gun and narcotics bust in the area, said Jasper Mayor David O’Mary, who had arranged to have the image taken, according to WBMA.

After the photo was published in the Daily Mountain Eagle, some people complained that the four Jasper officers were making a racist hand gesture that symbolized “white power,” the news outlet reported.

O’Mary said he had suspended the officers for two weeks, and that one week of the suspension period would be without pay.

"We talked to two senior African-American law enforcement officers that are on the City of Jasper's payroll and they think it's fair and that's a pretty good sounding board,” the mayor said.

He said that all four of the officers had “perfect” records prior to this incident, and that he would have likely imposed harsher punishment if their histories with the department weren’t so exemplary.

“That's contradictory to how we run our city. That's not our mindset. That's not the way we do things and they used poor judgement,” the mayor said.

The officers were actually following a viral trend known as the "circle game" where the goal is to make somebody look at your hand making the OK sign below waist level.

"It's a kid game. Going around and hitting everybody when you see it," one Jasper resident told WBMA immediately after viewing the photo.

The myth that the OK sign actually meant "white power" was started by internet trolls on 4chan, an anonymous message board, in February of 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

“We must flood twitter and other social media websites with spam, claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy,” the anonymous poster wrote, according to ADL, a civil rights organization. “Leftists have dug so deep down into their lunacy. We must force [them] to dig more, until the rest of society ain’t going anywhere near that s--t.”

Users encouraged people to perpetuate the hoax using hashtags such as # PowerHandPrivilege and # NotOkay, created fake social media and email accounts, and bombarded journalists and civil rights organizations with the misinformation.

The four officers, who are members of the department’s now-sidelined Critical Incident Response Team, have received letters specifying the allegations against them, Chief Poe told WBMA.

The complaints included behavior unbecoming that of a police officer and dereliction of duty, AL.com reported. The officers have seven days to respond.

If an investigation determines that punishment is warranted, Chief Poe will determine what sanctions are appropriate. The officers would also have the right to appeal any disciplinary action imposed against them through the Walker County Civil Service Board, the chief explained, according to WBMA.

None of the violations are punishable by firing, AL.com reported.

Chief Poe noted that he did not believe the officers were intentionally projecting a racist message by making the hand gestures, but also did not find their conduct to be appropriate, according to WBMA.

"I don't think that they meant any ill-will towards anybody. I think they were being less than professional as I see it,” he said. “They're extremely remorseful. Of course, wished it had never happened and very apologetic but still we're here where we are today."

Chief Poe has also begun looking into establishing a sensitivity training for the police department, AL.com reported.

"We will do this by the book and nobody's going to be mistreated. We've done this several other times,” he said. “Unfortunately, when you have as many employees as we do, everybody's not always acting right all the time. But we address the issues, try to be fair to everybody involved and move on."

"We're going to be fair to the officers in this but also our utmost goal is to be fair to the community and make sure the community does not lose sight that this police department is here to serve them and protect them and them be comfortable in calling on us if they have a need,'' he added.

The chief said he wanted the community to be assured that he was “addressing the problem.”

“We’re not going to shy away from that or sugar coat it,” he said.

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Cstuartsr
Cstuartsr

So if I understand this right, these officers made a hand gesture “supposedly” and the mayor puts the horse before the cart saying they had been suspended when our own country has a congresswoman that gets on national news and balls her fist up as in a sign of black power or whatever. This reverse discrimination is beyond me. I guess since she balled her fist up, officers needs to open their hands up so people can’t make something out of nothing. There personnel records were above and beyond and there name sake as been tarnished because of somebody making a racist nothing out of nothing. It’s sickening how racism is used to destroy good peoples name!!

George39
George39

I've been following this matter for a while now, watching as it progresses. I think it is dumb on the officer's behalf to position themselves in any situation which could be challenged by a defense attorney; or if the officers ever get charged with a crime, a prosecutor.

The defense attorney challenging an officer in court after this matter may say something to the effect, "do you play games often on duty? Were you playing when you arrested my client?" A prosecutor can use the sign for like it is being touted today. It can also be used to claim a private message is intended by the gesture. It can be used against you with the right imagination for anything at all, and that is why I don't understand why today's police officers are making themselves so damn vulnerable. In my retirement, many things have changed, but the rules and necessities to maintain professional conduct should not have. However, it should still apply that you do not submit forth in any manner which could even offer a whisper of uncertainty when it comes to the media or the public. You maintain your professional being at all times.

It is a neglective position to take when you are sending an image to the community. Whether it is racist, a child's game (which they should be too old to be playing on duty), or their 'clicks' secret hand signal. The point is, as a law enforcement world you are going to have an insurmountable amount of issues which will be waiting to go against you, you do not want to be creating any yourself that you don't need.

You also don't want to take the position that the "other side" is against us. When it gets to the point that life becomes about, "They verses Us," a topic which has been around since Adam and Eve, and no one (not even Cane or Abel) has ever won or benefited, not even the loser.

If you claim the officers are subject to unfair treatment and nitpicking, there will be an immediate backlash if you are listening and hearing the other side. For every slight against police, they have ten more. There are more because the issue is more significant than we want to admit. There are great police officers, the top of the line. I see them once in a while as I watch these forums. There is hope that there will be others who get over themselves and think before they speak or act. Is this professional? Am I representing the badge professionally? Am I pissing on those who have died for the career I have the privilege to enjoy? Am I making an ass out of the profession?

I started my career when I was a junior in high school. Dispatching for my small towns police department, then my senior year being hired by a neighboring department a slight bit larger. I continued stepping up to larger departments until I reached the size I felt most comfortable. Having received the best training on the way. I know officers who could stop a Sunday School teacher on her way to school and have her be spitfire mad ready to go to fist city and be calling for backup, they had zero human relations skills and only escalated many of the calls they responded. There were those officers who I observed could talk down the craziest homicidal maniac. Sometimes just by their presence, they maintained such a law enforcement soul when arriving on scene the whole situation suspects and all would temper down. If you have worked for longer than five to ten years, you should've had similar experiences. If you don't, you need to find a law enforcement agency who will allow you to ride along study their operations then take some of that back to your agency. I have rattled on, long enough. There is something to be learned from every situation. That is what the target should be not a group that is mostly out there somewhere on the internet puff somewhere.

Hamlinpiper
Hamlinpiper

What 'Problem'? It's a kid's game! Lighten up you pompous politically correct idiots!

ProGODProUSA
ProGODProUSA
LEOWIDOW
LEOWIDOW said: Well now I am going to ruin the theory in a matter of speaking...... in order to be a teacher...... you’re required age must be at least 18 years of age and have at least a BA in education. The youngest educator in history was a 19 year old college professor in 1717 whom held permanent position. More recently there was an 18 year old junior professor. So the GenX theories doesn’t work. That being said, people need to stop letting this little crap bother them. Good God it seems that everyone has a sensitivity issue. As of late people are going well out of their way to create havoc and chaos over stupid insignificant words or deeds that mean absolutely nothing. People are losing the jobs and career over words..... Papa Johns founder and now CEO of VIACOM media. It’s whist washy bullshit! It’s okay in the TV, Big screen, Video games and music to scream racist obscenities or slur words but not okay in every day life? Really WTH then start firing all of Hollywood and every person involved in making of the movies that are slated a racist, then fire all the people at the movie theaters who show the movies..... then let’s move on to the music industry...... let’s start firing the writer of the lyrics that are racist and slurring, let’s fire the artist of the song and lets fire every single record label employee for assisting them in production of the racially motivated song..... let’s fire every single person at MTV and BET for spinning the records and the disk jockeys as well, whilst we’re at it. How about firing the album cover artists too. Let’s go ahead and fire every single person in the video game industry for putting racist words on video games....... Stop with the wishy washy bullshit! The only people ever discriminated against was the Native Americans and they are the only ones who have the right to bitch about racism. Read your history books! Turn to the chapter which tells about the Trail Of Tears that ought to get you started. People need to stop acting like words and gestures are going to kill them! I have had plenty of people give me the finger and I’m not dead yet and nor am I in a corner crying my eyes out! For Godsake it’s an O.K sign! Next you’re going to tell me...... I can’t photo bomb someone and do the bunny ears because that makes me a Satanist! It’s a freakin gesture! Better tell the American Foundation for the deaf...... be careful what you sign, because someone might think you’re racist! Geez Louise!

@LEOWIDOW

I admit, I was being quite extreme in my theory about generation overlap - I was just thinking how the oldest Gen X (1965) could easily become teachers of Millennials. But yes, ma'am! People are getting all bent out of shape over words and names! Remember the hoopla over "niggardly"? It means "not generous; stingy". Oooohhhh.... but rather expose their ignorance, the mob demanded an apology for the use of the word. However, about reading the history books, I do have a question. Which one? The recent revised one by the teacher union, which have scrubbed out God and much of the good of the founding fathers, and have left children ignorant of much of the great history of our country, or the history books of at least the Baby Boomers, which did contain these facts? By the way, I had to chuckle, when I read your comment about the Native Americans - I heard about a meeting, around the turn of the century, where tribal leaders met with government leaders and media, and one prominent chief was asked if they would like to be addressed as Native Americans and he looked around the room and he replied that "We are ALL Native Americans." And you know what? He's right!

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

@ProGODProUSA God has nothing to do with schooling unless you're going to a religious school. No happenings in a religious text should be taught in public school as fact from a religious standpoint.