BLACK VOICES

Police Chief Shocks City: 'N*****s Gotta Learn How To Read'

The newly sworn-in police chief has since apologized.

A new police chief in the city of Farrell, Pennsylvania has come under fire for sending an offensive email that included racial slurs.

The newly appointed Thomas Burke, who is white, is slated to begin his term as police chief in the city about 70 miles outside of Pittsburgh on Jan. 1, according to WKBN Ohio News. In an April email soliciting donations for a local Parent Teacher Organization, Burke wrote: "Even $1.00 would will be greatly appreciated. Them Sharon n*****s gotta learn how to read." (See a screenshot of the email below.)

 

Burke made a public apology on Monday for the racial slurs used in the email.

"To everybody here, to everybody out there, my deepest -- I cannot tell you, from the bottom of my heart, I'm truly sorry. I apologize deeply," he said at a live conference.

The original email was reportedly sent as a request for monetary donations for new books for a local parent-teacher organization, Erie News Now in Pennsylvania reported 

Sharon and Farrell are neighboring cities in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. According to statistics pulled from City-Data.com, 48 percent of Farrell's residents were black and 45 percent were white in 2010. This is the population that Burke has vowed to serve and protect as police chief. 

Before becoming Farrell's police chief, Burke was the police chief in Sharon in 2007 and most recently served as a city councilman in that town. 

Stephanie Sheffield, a Farrell city councilwoman who is black, told Erie News that she was "hurt and upset" by Burke's e-mail. 

"I just feel it was a negative response for our area here in Sharon and Farrell," she said. "I spoke to him this morning and I immediately said 'dismissal.'"

Burke reportedly visited Sheffield at her home with an apology letter and explained that he uses the "n-word" frequently because that's "just the way it is" in their area, Sheffield told Erie News.

The city's mayor, Olive McKeithan, told WKBN that she "stands behind" Burke. 

"As the Mayor of Farrell and as an African-American, I stand behind Mr. Burke as police chief for the city of Farrell," she said. 

Some black community members in Farrell disagree with McKeithan's sentiments. Rev. Tiffany Holden of the Farrell community said the situation is "not okay." 

"It is not OK for anyone who is going to be the head of this community to be allowed to say such words," she said in a video clip captured by WKBN.

Watch Burke's public apology below:

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