EDGEWATER, Fla. - An internal affairs investigation report released Wednesday by the Edgewater Police Department has shed light on the reason behind the resignation of two officers in October.
Officer William Wetherell and Sgt. Matthew Snyder were accused of making racist and inappropriate remarks by three other officers included in a series of group texts from Sept. 12.
When confronted with screenshots of the texts, Wetherell and Snyder resigned immediately, but department officials initiated an internal investigation anyway.
In the text messages, which were sent to a group of officers working the same shift, Wetherell and Snyder made multiple comments and shared several memes disparaging African-Americans, the internal investigation report said.
“Based on the evidence obtained, as well as sworn statements provided by witnesses, (the investigator) was able to determine Snyder and Wetherell engaged in conduct which affected the morale and efficiency of the department,” the report’s conclusion said. “They also engaged in conduct that destroyed public respect for the department, as well as destroyed the confidence in the operation of the department.”
According to the report, Wetherell told his superiors that the texts were “a lapse in judgment,” and Snyder said “they were meant as a joke.”
Edgewater resident Brandy McClelland did not find them amusing.
“I think that is a pretty offensive, rude thing to say,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it is really a joke. It is offensive.”
In light of the text messages, the Edgewater Police Department went back and examined citations issued by Wetherell and Snyder.
According to the department, the men issued fewer citations to African-Americans when compared to other officers.
Resident Linda Walker said the incident with the two men hurts the reputation of all police officers.
"You look up to police officers, especially children do ... and to know that they really think that, it hurts," she said. "I'm pretty upset, and I think everyone in the community should be upset."
Calls seeking comment from the Edgewater police chief, city manager and the four city council members were not returned.
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