Tonasket, WA – The mayor of Tonasket is under fire after he asked a police officer named “Jose” to tell people his name was “Joseph” because he sounded “too Hispanic.”
The issue exploded on Jan. 8 at a Tonasket City Council meeting, the Spokesman-Review reported.
Former Tonasket Police Officer Jose Perez stood up at the meeting and told the city council and assembled citizens how Tonasket Mayor Dennis Brown had asked him to stop using the name Jose in his interactions with city residents, according to a video published by the Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle.
“Mayor walked into the office, he told me, ‘I changed your name from Jose to Joseph because Jose sounds too stereotypical. It sounds too Hispanic.’ ” Perez explained. “He asked me to introduce myself to the public as Joseph.”
Then, in the video, Perez told the story of when the mayor was riding along with him on shift and they approached a citizen.
He said he introduced himself by his own name.
“I introduced myself. I said, ‘My name is Officer Jose Perez.’ The mayor looks at me. He says, ‘What did we talk about.’ I went back and said, ‘My name is Joseph Perez,’ ” Perez told the city council.
A week before the revelations at the city council meeting, the mayor disbanded the three-man Tonasket Police Department amidst allegations of racism.
That decision left the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office as the only law enforcement agency in the remote region about 250 miles northeast of Seattle, the Lewiston Morning Tribune reported.
Okanogan County Undersheriff Aaron Culp said no agreement has been made for the sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement in Tonasket.
“They have contacted us seeking an agreement” for law enforcement services, he said, “but an agreement has not been reached.”
However, he said deputies will respond to serious crimes in the town with a population of about 1,100 while a solution is reached.
“The citizens are in a state of somewhere between panic and concern that a service they are used to having is seemingly not covered by the city,” Undersheriff Culp said. “We understand their concerns and are working with the city administration to come up with a solution.”
Brown said the city was negotiating with the sheriff’s department for a year-long contract, but that county didn’t want that.
The sheriff's office only has four deputies and a sergeant at any given time to patrol the 5,300-square-mile county.
Councilmember Jill Ritter called for the mayor to resign after Perez told his story at the meeting.
“Your answers to questions from this council and the public have not been consistent or truthful at times,” Ritter lectured Brown in the video. “I will not allow your lies to drag me and this council down and reflect poorly on all of us.”
“Asking Jose Perez to refer to himself as Joseph is appalling,” she said.