Police drama

Councilman outs cop for posting racist content on Facebook

A representative of the Chico Police Officers’ Association, the local police union, went on the defensive Tuesday afternoon, holding a press conference on the front steps of the City Council chambers.

Officer Peter Durfee, speaking from a prepared statement, contacted the CN&R and other local media in response to City Councilman Randall Stone having pointed out that a Chico Police officer had posted racist images on his personal Facebook page.

Stone, it turns out, had done some digging into the officer’s social-networking page after the same officer, Todd Boothe, posted an insulting comment on Stone’s Facebook page. He called Stone incompetent and an asshole. Here’s another gem: “Feed the homeless and fund worthless programs and take your personal insurance to the best rate in the City! Complete incompetency by our city council and their hired henchmen.”

And, boy, did Stone dig up some unsavory stuff in response. He forwarded to the media an email he’d sent to Police Chief Kirk Trostle with screenshots of some disturbing images. The most blatantly racist is a Photoshopped image of President Obama as a witchdoctor—complete with a bone through his nose—with “Obamacare” as the caption; the C in Obamacare is a backward hammer and sickle (i.e., a Communist symbol). Boothe posted the image in 2009. More recently, in June, Boothe posted an image of a red skull with a Confederate flag design over it featuring a caption reading, “Rebel ’till The Day I Die.”

During the press conference, Durfee called the images “political satire,” but anyone who’s taken a basic American history course knows the racist implications of the Confederate flag. I’m not going to waste ink here to say why the image of the president is racist. (TV’s Action News Now, which broke this story, fuzzed out the picture during its broadcast.)

Is Todd Boothe a racist? No idea. He’s not talking.

It’s clear he didn’t mean for the public to see the image of Obama—that one was set to private. The other one was out there for the world to see, however.

All of this is taking place, of course, during contract negotiations between the city and the CPOA, as Durfee pointed out. “We all know Councilman Stone is not a fan of the police department,” Durfee opined. I don’t know if that’s true, but I have a feeling the CPD—or at least the CPOA—isn’t a fan of Stone.

While Stone alleged that perceptions of racism within the department could jeopardize the safety of Boothe’s fellow officers, Durfee charges that Stone’s allegations endanger the lives of Boothe and his family. It seems to me there’s hyperbole on both sides of this thing.

Durfee said Stone could have handled the situation better by reporting his concerns internally to Chief Trostle, rather than airing them publicly. I think he has a valid point. But Boothe’s comments and posts are indefensible, and the CPOA made a mistake in saying they aren’t racist. They are. But that doesn’t mean Boothe’s a bad cop.

CPD is now conducting an administrative investigation. If that was Stone’s intention, he certainly succeeded.