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Justin Barrett Kills Two Jobs with One Stone

Justin Barrett, a 36-year-old soon-to-be-former Boston cop and Massachussetts Army National Guard captain, is making the headlines with a letter he circulated describing, a bit too enthusiastically, his views on a Boston Globe column on the Henry Louis Gates incident.

Alan Colmes has the background:

His palpable anger appears to be directed at Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham, to whom he refers as “a hot little bird with minimal experiences in a harsh field.”

Barrett refers to himself as “a former English teacher, writer, current police officer, father, husband and military veteran.”  He says he’s “embarrassed I paid the 1.50 for the paper” which he calls “sub standard,” “one sided” and “fourth grade level.”  About Gates he writes, “He is a suspect and will always be a suspect.”

The “former English teacher” goes on to state, “if I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey I would have sprayed him in the face with OC deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.”  Barrett continues to criticize the Globe by mockingly asking, “I might as well ax you the question, ‘Is this your first test at reporting’?”

Attacking Gates’ credentials, Barrett asks, “[He's] famous for what?…What has he done for me and my family?  What has he done for the law enforcement community or military veterans or to secure freedoms and our borders in this country?  What has he done to help limit and reduce my income tax?”

The author of the article to which Barrett objects is told she is a failure who deserves to be serving him coffee and donuts.   The officer concludes by screeching, “Go ahead, ax me what I think? Gates is a goddamned fool, and you the article writer simply a poor follower and maybe worse, a poor writer. Your article title should read ‘CONDUCT UNBECOMING A JUNGLE MONKEY-BACK TO ONE’S ROOTS’.”  JB

The National Guard has already suspended Barrett,

The Massachusetts National Guard does not and will not tolerate racially insensitive language.

The language contained in the e-mail violates policies of the Massachusetts National Guard and what it stands for in its commitment to uphold and protect the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Constitution of the United States.

Capt. Justin Barrett’s actions and opinions are his own and do not reflect those of the Massachusetts National Guard. Capt. Barrett’s opinions are in complete violation of Army and National Guard Values and will not be tolerated.

Not surprisingly, he’s been suspended from the BPD as well and the mayor says he’ll be gone permanently.

Barrett, a 36-year-old who has been on the job for two years, was stripped of his gun and badge yesterday and faces a termination hearing in the next week, said police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll. He has no previous disciplinary record, she said.  “Yesterday afternoon, Commissioner Davis was made aware that Officer Barrett was the author of correspondence which included racially charged language,” she said. “At that time, Commissioner Davis immediately stripped Officer Barrett of his gun and badge, and at this time we will be moving forward with the hearing process.”

[...][Mayor Thomas M.] Menino said he was angry when Davis informed him of the incident Tuesday night. Of the suspended officer, Menino said he told Davis: “He has no place in this department and we have to take his badge away. That stuff doesn’t belong in our city and we’re not going to tolerate it.” The mayor stressed that the incident was about one officer, and ”one officer doesn’t make up a police department.”

Menino, speaking to the Globe before an evening event in the South End, said he hadn’t seen the e-mail Menino said while the officer is not officially terminated, he might as well be “He’s gone, g-o-n-e. I don’t care, it’s like cancer, you don’t keep those cancers around.”

Barrett says it’s all a big misunderstanding.

In an interview that WCVB-TV aired last night, Barrett said he used “a poor choice of words.’’

Barrett and his lawyer said they will fight the charges. “People are making it about race. It is not about race,’’ Barrett said. Gates was arrested by Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley on charges of disorderly conduct. “I did not mean to offend anyone,’’ he said. “The words were being used to characterize behavior, not describe anyone . . . I didn’t mean it in a racist way. I treat everyone with dignity and respect.’’

Except, apparently, members of the public with whom he has disagreements.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Maggie Mama says:

    No doubt, Barrett, given a chance, would “recalibrate” his words.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Boyd says:

    People are making it about race. It is not about race.

    Hmm. I’m having a hard time interpreting “banana-eating jungle monkey” any other way than being about race. And I’m a redneck hick Texan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. James Joyner says:

    I’m having a hard time interpreting “banana-eating jungle monkey” any other way than being about race. And I’m a redneck hick Texan.

    Indeed. Perhaps he meant “spearchucker”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Derrick says:

    The “former English teacher” goes on to state, “if I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey I would have sprayed him in the face with OC deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.”

    As offensive as the racial stuff is (and I’m black), the language about how he would handle the situation is what is most disturbing. I have a healthy respect for cops, as I’ve known quite a few over the years, but some of the deference to them as a whole has to have limits.

    I know its a dangerous job, but at some point we have to expect a certain amount of responsibility for their behavior in situations. What’s been educational through this whole Gate-Crowley episode is how many people don’t have a problem with the police protecting their interests at the expense of the people that they vow to protect. I’m sure that this nut case is a minority amongst good law enforcement, but I think that there are too many examples that its a substantial minority that has no qualms about abusing their power when they deem fit, if just not to this degree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. hcantrall says:

    His being a racist jerk is the least of his worries. What kind of an idiot would send an email like this to a newspaper reporter? That seems insane to me, does he not realize that his “opinion” and comments are not acceptable? What the hell did he think would happen? Welcome to the unemployment line retard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. hcantrall says:

    I think I misread how this letter came about, so it wasn’t an email to the reporter. Doesn’t change my opinion of him though.

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  7. An English teacher wrote “If I was,” not “If I were?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Furhead says:

    The full letter is, uh, interesting? amusing? comically insulting?, as he demands that the female writer should serve him coffee and donuts.

    What’s surprising to me is that the letter has very few if any grammatical and spelling errors. While there are no paragraph breaks, the ideas and the acceptable grammar suggest that the letter was well thought out. It’s very disingenuous for him to suggest after the fact that it’s all a misunderstanding, or even a single isolated outburst.

    In addition to the obvious banana monkey comment, saying a black person should get back to their “roots” might also be considered offensive.

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  9. DavidL says:

    Justin Barret, who claims to have tought English, has a command of the English Language that matches or exceeds that of one Henry Louis Gates, who claims to be a professor of English.

    I find it interesting the the Massachusette Army National Guard both claims ot want to protect the Constituiion, yet dismiss Barrett for expressing an opinion. Military members our entitled to private opinions, even in Massachusettes.

    As for the Boston Police Department, I like to know what their specific complaints with respect to Barrett. Is disrespecting the race of the Mayor of Boston, the Governor of Massachusuttes and the President of the United States now become a crime.

    I mean it not like blackx are denied positions of power. So if the can sit on the seat, they ought to be able to take the heat.

    The noted racist Eric Holder suggested a national conversation about race. Apparent national converstions are only intended to air selected grievences?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  10. Janis Gore says:

    Using “ax” rather than “ask” multiple times pretty much disposes of the “It’s not about race” comment.

    In the end, though, I must say I’m glad the guy left off teaching English.

    Maybe he’s taken care of three jobs with one stone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Pug says:

    That’s right DavidL, rush out there and defend this ridiculous and embarassing outburst by a police officer and then call a black guy a racist. That is what “conservatives” do these days, no? I wonder why so few minorities are “conservative”?

    And I do believe he “tought” English. He probably tought it real good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. Make that “three jobs with one stone”, as I’m pretty sure any potential English teacher jobs also just went out the window…

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  13. DavidL says:

    That’s right DavidL, rush out there and defend this ridiculous and embarassing outburst by a police officer and then call a black guy a racist. That is what “conservatives” do these days, no? I wonder why so few minorities are “conservative”?

    And I do believe he “tought” English. He probably tought it real good

    I defend Justin Barrett’s right to express an opinion, even in the Peoples’ Republic of Massachusettes.

    As for calling Eric Holder a racist, he is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  14. Janis Gore says:

    Yench, that could be a typo, Pug.

    I’m more concerned with “your messages and material is so fourth grade level.”

    Looks like he should know.

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  15. JKB says:

    A prefect example why when confronted by the police, you be nice. You could be dealing with this guy or those like him rather than a normal, decent officer.

    Interesting that the Mayor and Police Commissioner are up in arms over the racist language but ignore the statements that he would use blatant excessive force “…sprayed him in the face with OC deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.” Pepper spraying someone for arguing but otherwise being non-confrontational, a-ok for the Boston PD, using racist language, not. Glad we got that policy cleared up.

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  16. Furhead says:

    DavidL,

    If you’re not a very good troll, you’re an embarrassment to real conservatives.

    It’s true that it’s not illegal to be racist or to say racist things. But it’s also not illegal to fire someone who would interfere with the police department trying to do its job properly. Someone who would spray OC in somebody’s face for no legal reason is not a very good police officer. That’s not to mention that the police department generally needs a good relationship with the public, and letting an obvious racist carry weapons around black people would not help with that goal.

    I’m no expert on the military, but I’m guessing there are some legal grounds to discharge someone who thinks many of his colleagues are banana-eating jungle monkeys.

    It’s not immediately clear to me in what way Gates doesn’t have command of the English language, nor why Holder is a racist, but those aren’t particularly relevant to this conversation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. PD Shaw says:

    it’s also not illegal to fire someone who would interfere with the police department trying to do its job properly.

    We don’t whether or not that’s true. We’d have to look at the collective bargaining agreement. Usually union contracts are quite specific on grounds for termination or discipline.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. James Joyner says:

    I defend Justin Barrett’s right to express an opinion, even in the Peoples’ Republic of Massachusettes.

    He’s got that right. But not a right to be a public employee and do it. Soldiers have all manner of restrictions on what they may say in public and HE WAS EMAILING THIS TO SOLDIERS IN HIS COMMAND! Ditto police officers, who are expected to enforce the law equally for all citizens.

    Does anyone reading this letter presume that he treats women and blacks with the same respect he does white dudes?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. Trouble says:

    The right to express an opinion does not carry with it the right to be excused from the consequences of doing so.

    And that’s a good thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. sam says:

    Yet another jackbootless post by the ineffable DavidL.

    Is disrespecting the race of the Mayor of Boston, the Governor of Massachusuttes and the President of the United States now become a crime.

    By the by, Daveo, Mayor Menino is Italian. As to the general drift of your “question,” uh, no, but it is not conducive to good relations with a large part of the public a Boston police officer is sworn to protect. And in a city where race relations have been a major problem in the recent past, it is doubly stupid. Finally, he’s an idiot, and I’m of the opinion that idiots ought not to be armed and empowered to act against the citizenry under color of law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Gustopher says:

    If only he had found a way to remove himself from the gene pool as well as the police and national guard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. PD Shaw says:

    People might recall that Giuliana was sued for ordering the firing of firefighters and policemen that rode on a racist float. The district court ruled that Giuliana had violated their first amendment rights. The Court of Appeals reversed:

    One does, of course, have a First Amendment right not to be terminated from public employment in retaliation for engaging in protected speech. But one’s right to be a police officer or firefighter who publicly ridicules those he is commissioned to protect and serve is far from absolute. Rather, it is tempered by the reasonable judgment of his employer as to the potential disruptive effects of the employee’s conduct on the public mission of the police and fire departments. We find, in this case, that the judgment of the defendants was reasonable, that it was the clear motive for the plaintiffs’ dismissals, and that it outweighed the plaintiffs’ individual First Amendment interests in participating in the “Black to the Future” float.

    Locurto v. Giuliani

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. nick f says:

    DavidL:

    “I find it interesting the the Massachusette Army National Guard both claims ot want to protect the Constituiion, yet dismiss Barrett for expressing an opinion”.

    That’s nice. I wonder, if the constitition protects free speech, even racist speech, why then was Mr. Gates arrested? Because he offended a cop? This seems to be the sole reason he was placed in handcuffs and carted off to jail. I know he was arrested for disorderly conduct but let’s face facts. This cop arrested him because the professor insulted him. The cops around the country rallied around their brother in blue as they always do. I wonder if they’ll rally around this racist pig too? His “crime” was only speaking his mind. The arresting officer in the Gates case used the power of the state to exact revenge against a man who offended him. The instinct for most law abiding people is to side with the police but let’s not lose sight of a few things. Cops are not always right. Black men have a far different experience than most of us when it comes to dealing with law enforcement, and the constitution does not allow the police to arrest people simply to humiliate them. I’d love to see this case go to trial because, using Obama’s language, it would be a teachable moment.
    Cops aren’t allowed to arrest people for being angry and calling them names. There has to be a threat of violence or a public safety issue. I know what the law says but the courts have consistently interpreted the disorderly conduct laws in this way. Prof. Gates was arrested because he mouthed off to a cop. That ain’t a crime. Both the police and the public should be taught that simple lesson.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Furhead says:

    Good point PD about police union contracts, and for remembering a similar situation with Giuliani. I don’t have an answer regarding what their particular collective bargaining agreement might say.

    But from what I’ve read, courts have generally held that the protected speech of public employees must generally deal with matters of public concern, and must outweigh the interests of the employer to maintain morale, efficiency, and discipline.

    A police officer might, then, be allowed to criticize the way the police department is addressing drug violence, for example. But calling the police chief a racial epithet would not be protected. I think this case is pretty cut-and-dried to be more like the latter than the former.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. [...] what drives people to be so stupid?  I mean, beyond the racism, beyond all those deep personal problems, what compels somebody to [...]

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  26. PD Shaw says:

    Of some interest, the Guiliani cases discusses Justice Sotomayor’s past rulings on this issue. She appears to balance First Amendment interests somewhat more favorably than her colleagues by restricting the category of employees the police departments can fire for expressing vile views:

    Dissenting in Pappas, Judge Sotomayor emphasized that Pappas, an information systems employee, was unlike “[a] police officer walking the beat.” Id. at 156 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting). Because someone who walks a beat “is often the representative with whom the public interacts[,][i]t is not difficult to see how such an officer who expresses racist views in certain situations could damage the efficient operation of the NYPD.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Georg Felis says:

    Obviously this miscommunication can be resolved with the gentleman in question being invited to the White House to share a beer with the young reporter and our very sexy President. After all, he was simply expressing his First Amendment rights, just like Mr. Gates, and it would be unfair to punish him for that, just like Mr. Gates. Right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  28. Pug says:

    False equivalence, George.

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  29. angulimala says:

    I agree that the racism is, to me, less scary than the general violent rage lurking in a man who is/was both a law enforcement officer and a member of the armed services.

    This man should not be serving in any job where carrying weapons is part of the job description.

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  30. [...] only are you unlikely to be taken seriously in your apology, you are likely to lose multiple jobs as a [...]

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  31. Joe Camel says:

    Me thinks he acted “stupidly” here..
    Seems racists exist in all colors and professions, such as professors, pastors, presidents and cops.
    Too bad we can’t fire the one in the white house as well as this idiot. The world could use less of them both.

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  32. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the military, but since the question was asked, I’ll answer.

    Yes there is a provision that makes this a firing offense for the military. The most likely avenue for discharge would be through Equal Opportunity bylaws, but if all else fails there is I believe Article 82 of the UCMJ. This would be the “Conduct unbecoming” article which is for all intents and purposes, a catch all.

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  33. Pug says:

    Seems racists exist in all colors and professions, such as professors, pastors, presidents and cops.
    Too bad we can’t fire the one in the white house as well as this idiot. The world could use less of them both.

    Joe, most racists still come in good old white.

    The trend among “conservatives” of calling all minorities racists is strange. Obama, Holder, Sotomayor, Gates and on and on, are all racists. Seems all the minorities are bigots now and all the good white folk are victims of racism. This comes from the Rush Limbaugh-Glenn Beck school of critical thinking and it is pretty dumb.

    It leads to farcical scenes like Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama questioning the Puerto Rican lady with his deeply furrowed brow due to his sincere concern over her racism.

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  34. An Interested Party says:

    The trend among “conservatives” of calling all minorities racists is strange. Obama, Holder, Sotomayor, Gates and on and on, are all racists. Seems all the minorities are bigots now and all the good white folk are victims of racism. This comes from the Rush Limbaugh-Glenn Beck school of critical thinking and it is pretty dumb.

    Ahhh…nothing like a little projection…what’s next? Rush Limbaugh calling someone else fat? Perhaps Phyllis Schlafly calling someone else old…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  35. el polacko says:

    oh go ahead and cast the first stone.. how many can truthfully say that they haven’t used some less than exemplary language when referring to some group or another.. especially in a moment of anger ? the guy was trying to poke a hole through the self-righteous language of a bleeding heart.. and we have plenty of examples (boxer) that they can be the worst racists. this is all much ado about very very little. my heart goes out to the guy because he’s screwed.

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  36. [...] Barrett, a two-year police officer and national guard captain, has been suspended by both the Boston Police Department and by the Massachusetts National Guard for his e-mailed [...]

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