The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma condemned on Thursday the actions of a Norman police officer who compared the use of facial masks to a movie scene with racist imagery.
The Norman Police Department is conducting an internal investigation of police officer Jacob McDonough after he replied with screenshots from the movie "Django Unchained" to an email notifying all officers that custom-printed face masks are available. The screenshots depicted a group wearing Ku Klux Klan masks and carrying torches, and captions on the screenshot read “I think we all think the bag was a nice idea. But not pointin’ any fingers, they coulda been done better.”
“We strongly condemn Norman Police Officer Jacob McDonough’s actions referencing KKK members wearing hoods and holding flame torches, while referring to the type of mask he would prefer to wear,” the ACLU said in its statement. “We affirm our solidarity and stand in support of those individuals and communities affected by these hateful acts, and join in the call with our partners at the Oklahoma State Conference NAACP for an independent investigation in the Norman Police Department and a review of the officer's history with marginalized communities.”
The Oklahoma State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for an independent investigation of McDonough on Wednesday, according to a KFOR report. In its statement, the NAACP referenced Norman’s history as a “sundown town,” or a town that — even into the 1960s — African-American citizens were expected to leave after sundown.
The Norman City Council passed a unanimous proclamation publicly condemning and apologizing for that history earlier this year.
The ACLU of Oklahoma has a “proud history of advocating in Oklahoma for the rights of institutionalized persons; educators; students; persons who speak out against governmental abuse; women; and minorities of religious, ethnic or racial character,” according to its website. It has also often been allied with the NAACP in taking legal actions.
“While our organization defends the First Amendment, we also recognize the power of speech, especially speech that implies the official power of the state, comes with consequences that are harmful and traumatizing,” the ACLU said in the statement. “The ACLU of Oklahoma stands firm in its belief that equality and justice will only be achieved if society looks racism and bigotry squarely in the eyes and rejects it.
“Our state is no stranger to the kind of devastating headlines about fatal police interactions and over incarceration of our Black and Brown communities,” the ACLU said in the statement, adding that "the fact that police abuse remains a significant problem” merits an independent investigation.
The ACLU said in the statement, “To our communities that feel unsafe as a result of these actions and the everyday struggle to trust those in power — we are here for you and will continue our fight to protect civil liberties for all.”