The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, announced Friday that it is investigating an officer who reportedly wore what the MPD described as a “disturbing and disgraceful” (read: racist as hell) t-shirt while on duty.
“The message conveyed on the t-shirt does not represent MPD’s values,” the statement read. “We understand the trust of the community is critical to our ongoing work and take seriously any incidents that may undermine the confidence the community has in our members.”
The MPD didn’t provide the officer’s name or provide details about what was on the offensive shirt. However, the activist group Law4BLackLives DC had recently filed a complaint with the department’s Internal Affairs division about an officer named Vincent Altieri whom the group said had been spotted on his shift wearing a t-shirt with white power symbols.
The MPD declined to confirm the name of the officer to Splinter, saying it was against their HR policy.
The complaint, which identified Altieri’s name and badge number, alleges that he was seen wearing a shirt with white power symbols while on-duty on three separate days in early June.
The back of the shirt says “Powershift,” with the “O” replaced with a Celtic cross—one of the most commonly used white supremacist symbols, according to the Anti Defamation League.
The shirt also shows the Grim Reaper, pictured in front of a DC flag, gripping a rifle and holding a DC Metro police badge. Underneath the graphic is “Let me see that waistband jo.”
The phrase, which mimics DC vernacular, alludes to searching a suspect, or what DC residents call “jump outs,” a more aggressive version of “stop and frisk” that involves a group of officers jumping out of an unmarked car so they can catch unsuspecting pedestrians off guard.
Finally, the shirt also contains a banner reading “7th District,” the area of the city Officer Altieri patrols.
April Goggans, one of the contacts listed on a petition calling for Altieri’s firing, lives in the 7th District and told Splinter that these shirts have “long been talked about” among residents, though this was the first time she had seen a picture of it.
As the petition notes, the shirt is particularly troubling giving the city’s demographics. DC is 49% black, though that number is much lower than in years past, and its police department has had a long and fraught history with the city’s black residents.
The Washington Post’s Radley Balko tweeted that the shirt is actually rather common in the city, and that defense attorneys have reported seeing other officers wearing it while in court.
From the petition:
Given the prominent placement of MPD logos and a badge number, the shirt does not appear to be attributed to Officer Altieri alone, but instead, appears to have been designed for a group of officers associated with the MPD Seventh District. Ninety-five percent of the residents in MPD’s Seventh District are black and too many Seventh District residents have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of the police.
As for the DC police department, they say the officer in question is now on “non-contact leave,” meaning they will not be interacting with the public and will be performing administrative duties while the department is conducting its review.