Racist jokes found in sheriff's dept. emails

June 26, 2008 8:06:03 PM PDT
From the 5th Ward, to Chinatown, to Houston's huge Muslim community, the furor is brewing over questionable emails the sheriff's office tried to destroy. After months of legal battles, the latest revelations from 13 Undercover include emails sent by folks wearing the badge which may offend you.

Here's $62,000 of your money for a slick sheriff's department video. They've even got their own theme song.

And here's a rare chance to hear your elected Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas talk on camera about his golden rule.

"When dealing with the public I would ask you treat these individuals with dignity and respect that you would expect in the same situation," Thomas said in a video.

Inside the Against All Odds Barber Shop in the 5th Ward, Silas Burk does what he's been doing for 16 years. He's shocked at what we showed him.

These are some of the emails the sheriff's office would have destroyed had 13 Undercover not spent months fighting in court. If a judge hadn't made sure you got to see them.

Like this one a deputy circulated about a new cell phone designed for white people who need to make a call in some urban cities like Houston. (SEE THE EMAIL)

The phone is a cell phone shaped like a gun.

"That's pretty much degrading us to the lowest level," Burk said.

The subject of the email 'If you know Houston you must read' is about the new Barbie. It includes the 5th Ward Barbie who is pregnant and comes with accessories. Optional accessories include a GED and a bus pass. (SEE THE EMAIL)

"How racist is that," asked Burk. "A GED and a bus pass."

The email says Gangsta Ken was available but now difficult to find since the addition of the infant.

Next door chef Michael Tolbert whips up a tasty soul food menu at the Breakfast Spot.

"Our way of life is not a joke," he told us. "If they are going to have this kind of attitude towards what we do and the way we live, they ought not to be working for us."

Of course the email doesn't just single out the 5th Ward. The Kingwood Barbie gets lost easily and has no full time occupation. That's a slam at stay at home suburban moms. The Greenspoint Barbie is recently paroled, has a 9mm handgun and a meth lab kit. (SEE THE EMAIL)

"I think it's indicative of a culture of an environment that is disrespectful of people of color," said Rogene Calvert of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

This sheriff's email was "sooo funny" you "should have seen [one of the majors] read it" said one email. It's how to learn Chinese in five minutes. (SEE THE EMAIL)

Some examples of the jokes:

This is a tow away zone....No Pah King.

What's stupid man in Chinese? Dum f-k. Well, you know the rest.

"It is meant to be a joke, but it's at the expense of another group of people," Calvert said. "We got to stop it, nip it in the bud."

Sheriff Thomas has a command staff of 34. Only four are black or Hispanic. In one email, commanders talked about whether a promoted sheriff's official was Hispanic. He wasn't.

From a memo:

"I believe American Indian still qualifies as being a minority, therefore his appointment should be viewed as being a positive for the sheriff's office. What will be next, Vietnamese, Chinese, Islamic? We can't include everyone, besides Hispanics are no longer a minority."

"I would ask them to stop this kind of thinking," Calvert said. "They need to bring other people of color into the department. We need to see some diversity."

The sheriff has refused to talk with 13 Undercover. Here is the department's full statement:

"The Harris County Sheriff's Office monitors its employees' use of the County email system to uncover evidence of inappropriate activity and has done so for many years. Such monitoring has employed both key-word searches initiated by the Network Administrator and content filters to prevent the receipt of inappropriate material. While it is not realistic to expect that every instance of inappropriate activity has been or will be discovered, the Sheriff's Office generally does a good job of identifying and addressing inappropriate uses of the County's computer systems. In addition, the Sheriff's Office is revising existing policies to provide our employees even better guidance in the appropriate use of email and related retention issues."

Maybe they just missed some. Wait till you see the e mails we've got Thursday night.

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