Los Angeles County Sheriff’s chief resigns over emails making fun of Muslims, women, other minorities

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Tom Angel, a powerful Los Angeles police official, resigned on Sunday after the Los Angeles Times published offensive emails he had sent while working for the Burbank Police Department.


The emails included forwarded messages with subject lines like "Short 'Bar' Joke/Devout Muslims," and "ROYALLY POLITICALLY INCORRECT." The content of 15 pages worth of letters obtained by the LA Times poked fun at Muslims, women, and other minorities.

One email included a list entitled "How dumb is dumb?" which explained "why Muslim Terrorists are so quick to commit suicide." The reasons are: "No Christmas," "No nude women," "Your wife can't shave," "towels for hats," and others.

Another included this joke: "Japanese scientists have recently created a camera with such a fantastic shutter speed that it is now possible to take a photograph of a woman with her mouth closed," and this one: "I took my Biology exam last Friday. I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently, 'Blacks' and 'Mexicans' were NOT the correct answers."

Angel, who until Sunday was the chief of staff to LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, sent the emails in 2012 and 2013, when he was Deputy Police Chief for the Burbank PD.

In a statement posted to Facebook, McDonnell wrote that he found the emails to be "deeply troubling," and that he intends "to turn this situation into a learning opportunity for all LASD personnel." McDonnell continued:

In the immediate future, we will be meeting with constituent groups throughout the county to share thoughts and ideas about improving our understanding of the varied cultures and orientations and deepening our appreciation of the many ethnicities and religions that are part of the vibrant fabric of the population we serve. We will also examine our current training framework and evaluate our curriculum in these areas to maximize their effectiveness.


McDonnell also said that department officials "will assess existing policies and systems for ensuring accountability and enhancing cultural and ethnic sensitivity and professionalism among our personnel." The first step in that plan will be randomly auditing LASD employees' emails.

Some were not satisfied with the Sheriff's response, with came days after the revelation of the emails. Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson told the LA Times that McDonnell's lack of action against Angel speaks volumes. “You’re not doing anything if your initial reaction is, ‘That’s horrible, that’s terrible, but there’s nothing I can do or nothing I intend to do,’” he said, adding, “You are the man at the top, you set the direction, the tempo, the climate for the department. If you don’t take action, what you’re saying is the department doesn’t care.”


And Angel's initial apology was rather underwhelming. "Anybody in the workplace unfortunately forwards emails from time to time that they probably shouldn't have forwarded," Angel told the LA Times last week, adding, "I apologize if I offended anybody, but the intent was not for the public to have seen these jokes." McDonnell said at the time, "Everybody's got their own take on humor. This was divisive and nonproductive…it's a shame the whole thing happened at all."

Los Angeles is not the only city in California dealing with the fallout from insensitive messages sent by police officials—San Francisco is also in hot water over racist and homophobic texts sent by officers.


Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.