BOSTON July 30, 2009 -- A Boston police officer and National Guard commander has been suspended from the force and stripped of his Army command after admitting that he called Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. a "jungle monkey" in an email.
Justin Barrett, 36, a two-year BPD veteran, could be fired as early as this week, Boston Police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis held a news conference today to denounce the language in Barrett's email, calling it "venomous rhetoric" and "inflammatory." The commissioner said such behavior "will not be tolerated."
Davis said he has begun a termination hearing that could last a week to 10 days. The commissioner also said he regretted the comments made about Gates.
"I personally reached out to him to apologize for this offense," the commissioner said.
Davis' news conference included religious and black leaders who also condemned Barrett's comments and tried to soothe racial feelings. The also warned that such prejudice must be eliminated from the ranks of police.
"Everybody knows one flat tire will stop a car," said the Rev. Don Mohammed.
He wrote the email in response to an editorial Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham that ran last Thursday, Barrett's lawyer, civil rights attorney Peter Marano, told ABC News.
"He was angry at the column. He wrote a private email to friends from a private computer,'' Marano said. "It was not his brightest moment."
Barrett admitted to Boston Police brass that he wrote the email, and was immediately stripped of his gun and badge by Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
Tom Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he was disgusted by the language. "He is not representative of the men and women of the Boston Police force,'' Nee told ABC News. "Justin Barrett has done more to hurt the police force than Gates did.
"Two wrongs don't make a right,'' Nee said.
Gates was arrested on July 16 for disorderly conduct after police arrived at his house on a report of a possible burglary. The charges were later dropped, but the arrest triggered a racial furor that reached as high as the White House.
The black scholar says the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, ignored Gates' request for his name, while Crowley said the professor accused him of being racially motivated and uncooperative.
The dispute embroiled the presidency when President Obama said the police acted "stupidly." Obama, Gates and Crowley hope to end the furor over beers at the White House today.
Tensions between the public and police in Massachusetts have risen since the arrest of Gates. Many police officers continue to harbor resentments about Obama's remark, and civilians have derided cops as "racists" in basic encounters on city streets, Boston police officers have said.