Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said Officer Justin Barrett was fired yesterday for violating department rules when he sent the e-mail on July 22, 2009. In the email, Barrett called Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates a “jungle monkey.” The email was sent following the incident in Cambridge last summer when Prof. Gates was arrested in his own home on a disorderly conduct charge. “(Gates’) first priority should be to get off the phone and comply with police, for if I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a … jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC deserving of his belligerent non-compliance,” the e-mail said.
Barrett, for his part, said at the time, “I am not a racist.” Barrett sent the email to several individuals and to the Boston Globe. He went on to explain, saying, “It was a poor choice of words. I did not mean to offend anyone.”
No doubt some will argue that Barrett’s “right free speech” has been violated with this decision, but from my perspective it seems like an appropriate step on the part of the Boston Police Department, and a step in the right direction for those interested in equal protection under the law.