A police officer in Georgia who was busted for making a crass and callous comment online about Ahmaud Arbery‘s tragic killing was effectively given a slap in the wrist and allowed to keep his job despite displaying behavior that suggests he has an implicit bias against Black people.
Houston County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Urhahn was not fired for the response to a Facebook post announcing the lifetime prison sentences for the three white men convicted of murdering the 25-year-old jogger. Instead, the 20-year veteran of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office has been suspended.
According to the Associated Press, Urhahn criminalized Arbery — who was unarmed and racially profiled as a burglar when he was fatally lynched in broad daylight by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan — in his Facebook comment and suggested he deserved to be killed.
“That criminal arbery still got the death penalty though,” Urhahn wrote before deleting it. The comment was preserved via a damning screenshot.
Other than not getting paid, the full terms of Urhahn’s suspension were not immediately clear. However, it was abundantly clear that he enjoyed the immediate privilege of little to no discipline for something that on the surface seems like it should be a fireable offense.
To be sure, there is no evidence Arbery was doing anything wrong, let alone illegal when he was tracked down, trapped on a street and shot dead on that fateful February day in 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. That much was established at trial and validated by a jury that unanimously found the murderous trio guilty.
If Urhahn cannot accept the legal ruling of a Superior Court judge, then who’s to say that same apparent implicit bias informing his opinion of Arbery won’t also prompt him to dole out a “death penalty” on any other Black suspect who he believes is guilty of a crime?
According to local news outlet WGXA TV, Sheriff Cullen Talton informed Urhan that the officer violated three rules, none of which have to do with his clear and apparent anti-Black racism:
Page 5 (4A) – An officer must at all times, on and off duty, conduct him/herself in a manner which does not bring discredit to the department or county.
Page 5 (4B) – Conduct unbecoming of an officer shall include that conduct
(2) Which has a tendency to destroy public respect for employees and confidence in the department.
Urhahn now has 10 days from Monday to appeal his suspension. If he doesn’t, he will be fired on Jan. 20.
Read Talton’s letter to Urhahn below.
Urhahn’s rhetoric steered dangerously close to people like Candace Owens, who criminalized Arbery in death and called referring to him as a jogger was a “bullshit narrative.”
Sadly, members of law enforcement trying to make light of a Black man’s death at the hands of the police is nothing new. Nearly one year ago, George Floyd‘s family slammed the LAPD because some of its officers made a crude comment about the case ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Nearly nine months after Floyd’s last words were “I cannot breathe,” LAPD staffers began sharing an image of the victim of police brutality with the message, “You take my breath away.” The image was reportedly in a “valentine format” ahead of the annual holiday of love.
This is America.