BOSTON (AFP) – Boston police said they had suspended an officer for a racist email likely to renew tensions over the recent arrest of black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.
“Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis placed Officer Justin Barrett, 36, on administrative leave pending the outcome of a termination hearing,” a spokesman for the force told AFP in a statement.
“Commissioner Davis was made aware of a correspondence with racist remarks and yesterday removed the officer of his gun and badge.”
The email describes Gates, who was arrested and briefly detained earlier this month at Harvard, near Boston, as a “banana-eating jungle monkey,” according to a copy published by news site MyFoxBoston.com.
The city’s mayor, Tom Menino, was quoted referring to Barrett as a “cancer in the department” and calling on him to be fired.
Gates became the center of a national debate on racism when he was charged with disorderly conduct after arguing with police sent to investigate a suspected burglary at his home near Harvard University.
President Barack Obama became embroiled in the uproar when he said police acted “stupidly.” On Thursday, Obama is due to host both Gates and the arresting officer at the White House for what officials say will be a friendly beer.
But the email has reignited the controversy and dealt Boston’s police a severe image blow just when they and the White House were hoping to calm tensions.
The email allegedly written by Barrett lambasts Gates for getting into an altercation with police.
“I am not a racist, but I am prejudice towards people who are stupid,” reads the alleged diatribe — containing frequent grammatical and spelling errors — against Gates and local newspaper the Boston Globe.
“He has indeed transcended back to a bumbling jungle monkey.”