Galena Park dispatcher fired for distributing racist photo

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by Jeremy Rogalski/Investigative Reporter

khou.com

Posted on May 8, 2012 at 6:31 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 10 at 2:59 PM

HOUSTON—The Galena Park Police Department fired a two-year veteran police dispatcher Tuesday morning after the I-Team exposed how the employee circulated a racist photo to others in the department.

The photo shows a white man with a garden hose, spraying an African American boy in the back of the head. The caption reads “Go be a ni**er somewhere else.”

For Galena Park resident Kerry Morris, the picture is beyond offensive.

“It’s way past that, c’mon! That’s ridiculous,” Morris said.

But it’s a photo the Galena Park Police command staff claims it had never seen before.  But after the I-Team broadcast it Monday night, Police Chief John Rader fired a dispatcher for texting it to others on the force.

“It has no business in police work, it’s about public trust, public integrity, it’s about serving the community,” said department spokesman Paul Lavalle.

Galena Park is a community with nearly a 90-percent minority population, including 80-percent Hispanic.

And other photos circulated at the department involve photo-shopping officers in sombreros behind Mexican flags or atop donkeys.

“We (were) just horsing around,” said Officer Juan Torres, who made the photos.

Torres said it was nothing more than a joke to get back at fellow officer for rooting against the Mexico World Cup Soccer Team.

I-Team: “You don’t see anything wrong with this whatsoever?”

Torres: “No.”

Officer Torres received verbal counseling for the incident. And as for his co-worker in the photos?

“I thought they were funny,” said Detective Markus Rivers.

Rivers also said no one else was offended.

“Everyone wanted a copy, and they found it hilarious,” Rivers said. “Extremely hilarious.”

But the I-Team didn’t hear anyone laughing about secret recordings of former Police Chief Robert Pruett. In one of them, he criticizes Rick Bates, an older officer who just had open heart surgery.

“It’s only a matter of time, because that son of a bit** is a walking dead man,” Pruett said on the tapes.

“By far it’s age discrimination,” said the 55-year-old Bates.

Rick Bates has filed a federal job discrimination lawsuit against the City of Galena Park.

Robert Pruett was not disciplined for his comments, but rather promoted to City Administrator. The position carries more than a $6,000 pay raise.

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