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Norman Police Department's investigation of officer for KKK reference follows department policies, advisory board says

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A Norman Police Department squad car sits outside the police department March 31, 2018. 

The Norman Citizens Advisory Board said in a Friday afternoon statement the Norman Police Department’s internal investigation of a police officer was “expeditious and in accordance with policy.” 

The department conducted an investigation of Norman police officer Jacob McDonough after he responded with screenshots of racist imagery from the movie "Django Unchained" to an email notifying all officers that custom-made masks are available. 

Norman Citizens Advisory Board chairperson Stacy Bruce said in the statement that the board’s responsibility is reviewing the police department’s investigative process, not deciding disciplinary action or deciding whether an officer is racist.

“Even though we are disappointed that the NPD did not inform the public or the NCAB of the investigation on May 7 (when the officer was notified of his investigation) we still fully maintain that NPD’s investigative process was conducted quickly and due process was followed,” Bruce said in the statement. 

The Norman Police Department said in an email that policy department policy maintains that employees will receive a confidential written notification of complaints filed against them, but the police department isn’t authorized to notify any other entity of the complaint. 

“Thus, while NPD understands NCAB’s disappointment with not being notified of the investigation on May 7, NPD Policy and the FOP Contract prohibited such notification,” the police department said in the email. 

According to the timeline in the statement, McDonough sent the screenshots at 3:56 p.m. May 5, and at 4:10 p.m., Lt. Lee McWhorter responded saying McDonough’s email was “beyond inappropriate.” McDonough issued a department-wide apology email at 4:20 p.m., and Norman Police Chief Kevin Foster sent the department’s internal affairs department a request for an internal investigation at 4:33 p.m. 

The internal affairs department sent McDonough a notice of the investigation May 7, and it conducted an interview with him May 12. An open records request was made on May 18. 

Disciplinary action is progressing through the department’s chain of command, according to the statement. The Norman Citizens Advisory Board met May 20 to review McDonough’s emails. 

According to the statement, the board’s responsibilities are listed in its bylaws, and Article III, Section I states that the group “will review the investigative process and results of completed departmental investigations.” 

The board said in the statement it felt the Norman Police Department had addressed the issue in accordance with its policies and in less time than required. 

The police department is required to give officers a notice of investigation and allow them 10 days to respond to an internal affairs interview, according to the statement. McDonough responded and completed his interview within seven days of sending the screenshots and within five days of receiving notification of the investigation.

Article III, Section 2 allows advisory board members to “offer suggestions and provide comments to the Chief of Police in regards to policy, procedures, and rules,” according to the statement. Bruce said that although McDonough has had just under 60 hours of community and human relations training, the board has submitted various recommendations to the police department, including that he attend additional racial intelligence and implicit bias training, spend community hours with diverse groups, participate in “professionalism training” or be placed on probation. 

Article III, Section 4 of the board’s bylaws says “NCAB will assist the police department in achieving a greater understanding of community problems with an emphasis on improving relations between the NPD and citizens of Norman.” 

In the statement, the board encouraged Foster and the Norman Police Department to communicate more effectively with the public about investigative processes and timelines. 

“It was voiced that it appeared to the public that NPD only went into action once the Open Records request was made,” the statement read. “Through our research, NCAB found this to be untrue and we were pleased with the quick responses by two officers in addition to the Chief of Police.” 

According to the statement, the Norman Citizens Advisory Board was created in 2017 with help from the U.S. Department of Justice. Former Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey’s goal in creating the board was “to facilitate efforts with building trust and enhancing department legitimacy with the community.” 

In 2018, the Norman Police Department conducted a series of planning meetings with the Norman Citizens for Racial Justice group. Both groups participated in community forums to discuss drafts of the Norman Citizens Advisory Board’s constitution and bylaws, and in Nov. 2018, the bylaws and constitution were finalized.

Norman Citizens for Racial Justice said in a May 18 Facebook post“We were alerted to a racist incident within the Norman Police Department that occurred in response to the COVID-19 lockdown requirement that officers wear masks on duty. That in itself was a contentious issue, but add to that invocations of the KKK just a few years after we got rid of a street named after a leader of the KKK and the NPD dragged a homeless black man named Marconia Kessee across the Norman Regional Hospital parking lot as he was literally dying. Norman used to be a Sundown Town — maybe it still is. Maybe cops and Klan DO go hand in hand. DEPLORABLE!” 

“Our advisory board is challenged with the responsibility of dealing with the review of NPD procedures, investigative processes, and results and is not intended to determine if the officer’s email was or was not racist in nature,” Bruce said in the Norman Citizens Advisory Board statement. “This is a difficult task to do considering the email sent. A recommendation to the Chief of Police, from the advisory board, was that perhaps the officer should have been suspended with pay while the investigation was being conducted. Regardless, up to this point, we believe NPD has responded in accordance to policy and due process was followed. We are eager to see NPD issue McDonough’s disciplinary action and are hopeful that our recommendations will be considered.”

Ari Fife is the OU Daily summer editor-in-chief and a sophomore journalism major minoring in international studies and political science. Previously, she served as a senior news reporter and was an SGA beat reporter.

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