Vincent City, Alabama—a town of less than 2,000 people—had only three police officers. But the city council just decided to temporarily disband the whole department after a two-hour hearing at a local high school regarding a racist text sent by one officer that surfaced on social media.
Mayor James Latimer explained that the department couldn’t fire the police officers, due to an outdated policy that it is trying to change. However, disbanding the entire department would allow the city to lay off the officers. “Based on our personnel policies, we cannot terminate them,” Latimer said.
Earlier this month, AL.com published a text message by an unnamed officer making a heinous joke about racism and slavery. “What do y’all call a pregnant slave?” the officer wrote. “Buy one, get one free.”
Police Chief James Srygley told the outlet at the time, “We have conducted an internal investigation and the appropriate disciplinary action has been taken.” Latimer said that two of the city’s officers have filed paperwork to retire, and one has resigned.
Black residents spoke out at the public hearing about the implications of supposedly being protected by a police force that hates them. “You are not in our shoes,” Charles Hamilton reportedly said in response to speakers who had defended police officers. “You’re not Black, and the joke was not on you, the joke was on us.”
Vincent is located 35 miles southeast of Birmingham, in Shelby County, Alabama. According to Vox, it “plans to contract dedicated police services with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for the next year.”