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Racist Facebook rant on Obama gets cop suspended

“Go die in a shallow grave you Muslim commie,”  read the Facebook comment, which was directed at President Obama and posted by someone calling himself Coon Trapper.

But officials in the Village of Pleasantville, N.Y., say Coon Trapper was Officer Peter Burns, a veteran cop whose blurb was enough to get him suspended but not fired by the village's Board of Trustees.

At its regular meeting Monday night, the Village Board said Burns could keep his job — which the Journal News of Westchester County says pays him more than $98,000 a year — despite using a racist slur on top of the "Muslim commie" comment to describe Obama.

Under a resolution approved by the Village Board, Burns will be suspended without pay or benefits for 60 days, forfeit 25 days’ vacation and be required to attend a training program on diversity and sensitivity. Burns also must accept a two-year “last chance” agreement that amounts to a probationary period.

“These statements undermine confidence in law enforcement, and they cast doubt on the ability of this officer to fulfill his sworn duties in a fair, unbiased manner,” said Mayor Peter Scherer, explaining the Board’s decision.

 “I want to be clear that the Village has no interest in political beliefs of its employees. We do, however, have a fundamental interest in ensuring that the statements and actions of our employees do not harm their ability to fulfill their responsibilities,” said Scherer.

Burns, 35, could not be reached for comment.  An email sent to an address linked to Burns bounced back as undeliverable, and there was no answer at a phone number listed for a Peter Burns in Pleasantville. The town’s police chief did not reply to an email.

Burns’ problems began in December, when the posting on Coon Trapper’s Facebook page appeared.  It called Obama "un-American," used a racial slur to describe him, and added:   "The fact that he (Obama) is still alive bewilders me....Go die in a shallow grave you Muslim commie."

The page quickly was taken down, but not before the Journal News saved an image of it.  The newspaper linked the page to Burns and showed the posting to Pleasantville’s police chief, Richard Love.

Love put Burns on paid administrative leave.

The scandal came on the heels of another racially charged incident in Pleasantville, a comfortable suburb of about 7,000 people in Westchester County, some 30 miles north of New York City. In 2010, a Pleasantville police officer shot to death black Pace University student Danroy Henry Jr. during a disturbance after the school’s homecoming game.

Henry, 20, was unarmed and driving away from the brawl when officer Aaron Hess, who is white, opened fire.  A grand jury cleared  Hess of wrongdoing, saying Henry had tried to run down police — a charge Henry's family rejected.

A year later, the Pleasantville Police Benevolent Assn. gave Hess its Officer of the Year award.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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