Fire A Cop For Uttering A Racial Slur?

Mar 25th, 2014 | By | Category: Katz Litterbox
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katz-litter4LAPD cop’s firing for using a racial slur and lying about it is overturned by Chief Charlie Beck

On January 14, 2012, Shaun Hillman, an off-duty L.A. cop, and his wife were at the Maverick Saloon in Norco when shortly before the 2 a.m. closing time he got into a scuffle with a black man.  His wife had been dancing with the man and suddenly pushed him away.  She told her husband that the man had groped her breasts.  Hillman then got into a shoving match with the man before a bouncer and the bar’s manager evicted him from the bar.  During the scuffle Hillman used a racial slur which was subsequently reported to LAPD.

When questioned about the incident by his superiors, Hillman denied he used any racial slur.   LAPD had an audio recording of him uttering the racial slur and several witnesses told investigators they heard him using it.  LAPD administrators recommended Hillman be fired.  In January of this year a disciplinary board voted unanimously to terminate him.  Police Chief Charlie Beck overruled the board and suspended Hillman for 65 days instead.

Chief Beck has been accused of showing favoritism to Hillman because his father is a retired L.A. police officer and Michael Hillman, his uncle, is a former LAPD deputy chief.  Beck, who served alongside Michael Hillman, denied he showed the nephew any favoritism, saying that he bases disciplinary decisions on the gravity of an officer’s misconduct, his disciplinary history and his job performance.  Hillman had a clean record and had received several commendations.

My question is: Should a cop be fired for using a racial slur?  I’ll answer that question with two other questions.  Is there anyone who has not used a racial or ethnic slur at some time or another?  Is there anyone who is not prejudiced to one extent or another against a racial, ethnic, religious or gender group?  If there is someone out there who has never used a racial or ethnic slur and/or is not prejudiced against some group, he must surely be able to walk on water.

As for Hillman and his wife, I wonder how much they had to drink before she got groped and he got into that scuffle?  I suspect that he is not a racist because all he did was shove the man.  Had he been a racist, he would never have allowed his wife to dance with a black man.  He uttered the slur out of anger, not as a result of prejudice.  A racist would probably have killed a black man for groping his wife’s breasts.

Hillman deserved to be disciplined, but not for using a racial slur while off-duty.  His sin was lying to his superiors.  And a 65-day suspension is a pretty hefty punishment for what he did, especially since he had a clean record and was the recipient of several commendations.

As for cops using racial slurs, it has been my experience that they are used quite frequently, and that includes black officers using the ‘N’ word.   What police administrators need to be concerned about is the possibility of an officer mistreating minorities because of his prejudices.  That kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and calls for his expulsion from the police force.

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7 Comments to “Fire A Cop For Uttering A Racial Slur?”

  1. Joe says:

    What a dishonest post. You didn’t mention that Hillman pulled a gun on them, or that Hillman was later pulled over and told the deputy he was drunk, or that he continued muttering slurs well after the initial event. At least we agree that most cops lie during internal investigations into their own conduct.

    As to your question: no, he shouldn’t be fired for using a racial slur. The fact that the media is playing up the racial angle, rather than the fact that no criminal charges were filed against this diseased rodent, illustrates the ridiculous state of criminal justice journalism in this country. I do think that most people use racial slurs more to hurt than from an actual racist belief.

    • Howie Katz says:

      Joe, I did not intentionally omit the fact that Hillman pulled out his gun during his confrontation with a man who had groped his wife’s breasts. It was not until two days after I posted this piece that more details were release about what happened in Norco.

      As for Hillman being drunk, I suspected as much when I wrote: “I wonder how much they had to drink before she got groped and he got into that scuffle?”

      I never mentioned “that most cops lie during internal investigations into their own conduct,” but I will now admit that they often do. But that is no different from anyone else lying when they’ve been accused of wrongdoing. Cops, after all, are human beings too.

      When you refer to Hillman as a “diseased rodent,” you reveal yourself as a cop hater. If you ever need the services of a police officer, call a social worker instead!

  2. LOLwtf says:

    This only shows that CDCR officers are held to an even HIGHER standard than LAPD, a CDCR officer under the same facts and circumstances would be terminated no questions asked. With that being said -

    After 12-month probation in the field, LAPD Officers automatically promote to Police officer II with annual salary increases thereafter up to $88,427.

    If CDCR officers are expected to hold themselves to an even higher standard than those imposed on LAPD why do they make $16,000 less a year?

  3. kl2008a says:

    Me thinks that the disciplinary action was not because he used any racial slurs but rather because he was dishonest in his testimony during the investigation. While this matter is NOT under the jurisdiction of the State Personnel Board, everyone should be on notice that, per an earlier (pre-90′s) ruling, a finding of dishonesty by a Peace Officer IS grounds for termination.

    • pacovilla says:

      That’s my read too. He lied and THAT is a termination offense. As for the question, NO, LEO’s should not be terminated for using a slur OFF-DUTY. On duty, maybe so.

      • Bob Walsh says:

        That is my inclination also. You can clean up or gloss over or apologize for an action. Once you lie in an official statement, you are a documented LIAR and maybe a perjurer.

      • Howie Katz says:

        The lying played a big part, but the departmental investigation was conducted for only one reason … he had used a racial slur. I think they wanted to fire him for that and the lying just gave them a good excuse.

        Let’s face it, if they fired every cop who lied to his superiors or to IA investigators responding to an allegation of misconduct, there would be hardly any cops left.

        Paco, as for ‘On duty, maybe so,’ that should depend on several factors such as the officer’s length of employment, his work history, and the circumstances causing the racial slur. And what about a black officer using the ‘N’ word? Would he be fired? Yeah, right!