A lieutenant in the Baltimore Police Department — an agency that has landed in national headlines in recent years following riots over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and a subsequent, scathing Department of Justice report on the police department's record on race and civil rights — has been suspended after being implicated in a racist email.
In the email exchange between Lt. Victor Gearhart and Fraternal Order of Police members, Gearhart repeatedly called nonviolent Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrating outside an FOP convention "thugs," local television station WJZ reported Monday evening.
"By now you have seen that the THUGS from Black Lives Matter and other similar groups have attempted to disrupt the state FOP convention being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel," Gearhart wrote. "Well today as check-in day with activities spread over the next 3 days so expect more bad behavior from the THUGS OF BALTIMORE. On the bright side maybe they will stop killing each other while they are protesting us."
The term "thug" has significant (and unflattering) racial implications, Columbia University English professor John McWhorter told NPR in April 2015.
Gearhart has been in trouble with the police department before over similar statements he made on a personal Twitter account, according to the Baltimore Sun. The paper also reported the protesters outside the FOP convention were nonviolent.
A spokesman told Complex the email was being "investigated internally" and "not representative" of the city's police force. He also said Police Commissioner Kevin Davis was "outraged" by its contents.
According to the New York Daily News, Gearhart also serves as vice president of Baltimore City FOP Lodge 3.
Baltimore Brew reported protesters outside the police union convention were, in at least one case, subject to questionable arrests by city law enforcement, with one activist filming others who had chained themselves to a railing arrested along with others.
Correction: Aug. 16, 2016
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Lt. Victor Gearhart had resigned. Gearhart was suspended.