Images circulating on social media showing a Geneva Police officer’s racially-charged Facebook posts have prompted responses from the City of Geneva, At-Large City Councilor Mark Gramling, and the Geneva Women’s Assembly.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, September 13th 2017, an image began circulating on social media that displayed a collection of racist posts by Geneva patrol officer Todd Yancey. The meme included confederate flag imagery, an image that reads “Trust Me, I’m White” and an image complaining about the need to “Press 1 for English.” These posts were created by Yancey on his personal Facebook page between 2012 and 2015.
Within a few hours, the image had been shared over 100 times.
The City of Geneva issued a statement via social media accounts within hours of the image going viral:
The City of Geneva is a community rich in identities, traditions, customs, and histories that warrant celebration. Our multi-cultural heritage is a point of pride. We will not tolerate or condone discrimination, harassment, racism, or hate speech in any form, at any level, or in any public process, program, or service.
If you witness activity that runs counter to these principles, please elevate it and report it as quickly as possible to a City Councilmember or staff leader. City Council contact information is below, and City Manager Matt Horn can be reached at email@example.com.
City Councilor Mark Gramling issued a short statement on Facebook as well:
I am very aware of the racist post on social media about a GPD officer. I am looking into this matter and will respond accordingly very soon. Trust and believe this will not go unaddressed.
By the next morning, on September 14th, the original image had been shared hundreds of times.
In the afternoon, Gramling issued a lengthy statement addressing the issue in which he called for the officer to be relieved of his duties and for a public investigation:
Wednesday evening while working a late shift, I received a call from Geneva City Manager Matt Horn. From the moment I said hello I heard what I perceived as fear and disappointment in his voice.
When I heard the explanation of what had been shared on social media of a GPD officer, that I was not previously privy to until this moment, i began experiencing mixed emotions. While listening to a very apologetic and seemingly emotional city manager explain the fact that the city leaders inclusive of the chief of police, are very disgusted with the display and taking this matter very seriously, I wasn’t alarmed any more than normal. Not because I had no feelings about it, but because of the fact that a lot of folks in my culture has come to the understanding of a reciprocal cynicism when it comes to these situations that we have articulated over and over again.
I know many are waiting on a response from the first African American councilman. That’s to be expected. I believe most people who know me understands that I am a man who runs from nothing or no one, and if I’ve addressed these issues on a national level, I will absolutely address these issues on a local level.
With that being said, it’s without question what we see in this post is a continuation of what we have see nationally. The openness and courage to display and perpetuate white supremacy and racism. We here in Geneva are not exempt.
I spoke at a vigil about a month ago standing against the racism we saw in Charlottesville. I articulated that white Supremacy is right here in Geneva
Well here it is!
The disbelief that an entire culture of people has been demonized for try to articulate is now raring its ugly face right here in our town openly! I did not speak at that vigil without any backlash.
There were those who spoke against my dissertation saying that we African Americans always bring up racism to get something we don’t deserve. Folks inboxed me to tell me to just let it go. Some said, if I or we African Americans would just get a job we wouldn’t have the time or energy to fight against this fictional racism.
The sad part is some of these apathetic comments came from some of the nicest people I know!
As the first African American councilor, I’ve endured more than people know from both sides of this issue, all the while trying to effect positive change in my community. But I am willing to endure this to change our community for the better for All Of Geneva!
As I articulated to the city manager who felt the urgency to contact me expeditiously, this is a teachable moment. An opportunity! For those who cynically scoff at an entire community of people who articulate the perpetuation of such ugliness! For those within my culture standing from the outside who are so quick to even scoff at the expectations of “the first African American councilor.”
This is a teachable moment to take seriously the actions that we have been seeing around our country. These are actions of hate are Perpetuated on our community! A community who is rarely given the benefit of the doubt! Well, the doubt is being reassured! And though racism has not been deemed a hate crime it should be treated as such in this community!
This kind of behavior should not be tolerated from our law enforcement agencies.
With a very public investigation for solidification, to ensure our public that Geneva will not stand for this kind of behavior in any form. Not only should this officer be immediately relieved of his duties, his fire arm should be revoked as well.
It is impossible for and officer with this ideology or mentality to effectively protect and serve all citizens within a community with such great diversity!
There has been collaborative efforts through our community compact with GPD, and the city, working directly with community leaders of color for a more cohesive relationship.
These actions are not the values of our community or our municipality, nor our police department and a firm stand against them from city officials is the only way to solidify that!
I will be working closely with city officials and staff for real accountability in this matter!
This is something that has always existed within our community’s. The time is now to not be divided but to come together! We are Geneva! A place where we can progress! A place where we can evolve! But it takes us all who are willing to expose these evils and others to empathize with those that this sickness has been perpetrated against! This is very real and now it’s hitting home! Our home! This is a community cross road! We can become further divided or come together and destroy this sickness in our community and in our police department!
Less than an hour later, the Geneva Women’s Assembly released a statement as well:
The Geneva Women’s Assembly stands against racist and predatory policing. We’re appalled to see that a GPD officer feels comfortable openly posting his white supremacist beliefs.
These posts are not an isolated incident by one bad apple. The structure of policing in the US means that communities of color are surveilled more heavily than white communities, experience more police violence, and are impacted in life-long ways by encounters with a criminal justice system. In other words, racist attitudes are only part of the problem. Without significant community control, policing will always be applied and practiced unequally. In 2011, a GPD officer shot and killed Corey Jackson. Officer Yancey’s posts make clear that GPD has not taken seriously the calls to reform racist policing and that sensitivity training alone is insufficient. If we are really going to address predatory policing, we need to start listening to communities of color in Geneva and support the work that Tools for Social Change has already done to address this important community issue. The city of Geneva and the GPD can no longer claim that they are doing everything they can to end racist policing in our city. We must stand against white supremacy and racist police together.
We know that the meme now circulating on social media highlighting some of Yancey’s racist posts will make people of color feel even more unsafe in Geneva. Exposing the racism of a GPD officer may also expose communities of color to retaliation. We will not stand for this. If you are feeling afraid, angry, or experiencing retaliation, GWA has your back. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on FB, if you want to share a story or need support.
Also on September 14, Geneva City Manager Matt Horn had this to say in response to a resident’s email referring to the Yancey news:
“We were alerted to this late yesterday and moved immediately to take action. The Chief of Police and City Attorney are both exploring personnel disciplinary matters, and the Chief and I have moved quickly to speak with leadership in the African-American community. Our message, and firm belief, is that this is completely unacceptable and the diametric opposite of what we stand for as a Department and City.
Last night, we also sent outbound messages on the City’s Facebook account to assure the public that we value and celebrate our cultural diversity and multi-cultural heritage, and that we will not tolerate any discriminatory or hateful speech or action. We encourage residents to contact their Councilor or myself directly with any observed misconduct.
Thanks for contacting me, and please feel free to continue the dialogue.
Finally, as of this writing, there have been no statements issued by the Geneva Police Department.
Geneva Believer will be closely following this developing story in the coming days and weeks.
READ THE UPDATE HERE->>GPD Racist Meme Update: Analysis, More Community Response