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.