According to city records, top Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department official Tom Angel sent racially insensitive emails about Muslims, blacks and Latinos while in his previous job with the Burbank Police Department.
Angel is now chief of staff for Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
The offending emails, obtained by the Los Angeles Times through the state’s public records law, were sent in 2012 and 2013, when he was working as the No.2 police officer in Burbank, and forwarded by recipients.
One of the emails read, "I took my Biology exam last Friday. I was asked to name two things commonly found [in] cells. Apparently, 'blacks' and 'Mexicans' were not the correct answers.”
The subject line of another email read, “How dumb is dumb?” The body of the message was a list about why “Muslim Terrorists are so quick to commit suicide.” The answers included “rags for clothes,” “no beer,” “no bacon,” “you can’t wash off the smell of donkey” and “you cook over burning camel s--t.”
In an interview with the L.A. Times, Angel said he didn’t mean to embarrass or hurt anyone, and it was unfortunate his emails were made public.
"Anybody in the workplace unfortunately forwards emails from time to time that they probably shouldn't have forwarded," Angel said. "I apologize if I offended anybody, but the intent was not for the public to have seen these jokes."
When asked about the “Biology exam” email, Angel described himself as being of Mexican heritage.
A longtime Sheriff’s Department employee, Angel joined the Burbank Police in 2010. He rejoined the Sheriff’s Department last year to work for McDonnell.
Although disappointed, the sheriff says he has no immediate plans to discipline Angel officially, as the emails were sent when he was working in Burbank.
"Everybody's got their own take on humor. This was divisive and non-productive," McDonnell told the Times. "It's a shame the whole thing happened at all.”
Burbank Police chief Scott LaChasse learned about the emails in 2014. According to the interim city manager, Ron Davis, who oversaw the city’s utility department at the time, LaChasse began auditing police employees’ emails for insensitive language.
“They were not right, not to be condoned," LaChasse told the Times. "There's nobody more contrite about it than Tom Angel. That's not a part of his DNA."
McDonnell is standing by his man. He has said the incident is "a teaching moment," showing that pressing the "send" button can have unintended consequences.
"If you were to ask ... anybody who's familiar with Tom, he's professional and respectful of everyone he works with and deals with," the sheriff said. "His focus is on the best interests of constitutional policing in L.A. County."