A Florida sheriff’s office has launched an internal investigation into one of its own officers who’s been accused of sharing racist tweets online, including one post that insisted Black people were among “America’s biggest problems.”
On Tuesday, Jacksonville Sheriff Pat Ivey told local news outlet First Coast News that the department was looking into social media posts linked to Sgt. Douglas Howell, a member of the force’s gang investigations unit. Depending on the outcome of the probe, the sheriff told the network that the officer could be reprimanded. The officer’s Twitter account was locked after the messages were publicly addressed by the police department.
“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is currently in the midst of an active administrative investigation related to multiple reports of an employee allegedly posting disparaging material on a personal social media account,” Ivey told First Coast News in a statement. “I have asked that our Internal Affairs Unit look into these allegations. Detectives have begun working in their attempts to verify whether these posts are legitimate and most important, determine whether the individual responsible for the posts may be a JSO employee.”
Howell’s social media posts from the last 10 years have been called into question by members of the public, First Coast News reported. The high-ranking officer, who is white, allegedly made several derogatory posts about anti-racism efforts and the LGBTQ+ community.
In one tweet, local news outlet NewsJax4 reported that Howell’s account made disparaging comments about the Boy and Girl Scouts’ involvement with a local Pride parade.
“This is absolutely infuriating. These people are sick and demented,” the tweet read, according to NewsJax4.
In another post, according to the news outlet, his account replied to a post about white Mexicans’ ties to white supremacy.
”There are different colored Mexicans?? (Inserts Sarcasm),” he allegedly wrote.
A third tweet from 2013 claimed that “America’s Three Biggest Problems” are “Marijuana Abuse, Marijuana Abuse and Black people.”
According to NewsJax4, officers of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office are free to express themselves on social media as long as the content of what they post does not interfere with their work or violate the office’s social media policy. However, “engaging in speech in any form…that ridicules, maligns, disparages, or otherwise expresses bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals” would be a violation of social media policy, the news outlet reported.
The sheriff told NewsJax4 that consequences could range from suspension to termination.
According to Howell’s LinkedIn page, he has been with the police department for 18 years.
Howell and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office did not respond to The Daily Beast’s multiple requests for comment Tuesday.