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MBTA cop’s Facebook post sparks ire in black community

Nate Homan | 7/16/2014, 11:38 a.m.
An MBTA police officer was demoted after a posting a racist message on his Facebook page.
A drill instructor at the MBTA Police Academy has been stripped of his role and must undergo training after he posted a racist comment on his Facebook page. (Banner photo)

Social media is not the best place to air out tasteless thoughts and opinions, especially if you’re a public servant, or anyone else in the public eye.

MBTA Transit Police Officer Joe Rossi learned that the hard way when he posted “Farther’s Day (sic), the most confusing holiday in Roxbury,” on his Facebook page.

According to MBTA officials, Rossi has been stripped of his role as a drill instructor at the MBTA police academy and will be re-trained in the significance of respecting members of the community.

Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson called the posting “unacceptable.”

“The posting from the officer was offensive and in poor taste,” Jackson said. “He is someone who not only is a police officer, but was in the capacity of a trainer, which to me, is the most worrisome aspect. Someone of public status should never be posting offensive material like that.”

Jackson said he and president of the Boston Branch NAACP, Michael Curry, will meet with the T to address this matter.

“It is my expectation that the MBTA works swiftly to use all of their powers to discipline of this individual to the highest degree,” Jackson said.

“We have already reached out to the T police and will be meeting with them to explore the current processes and procedures in determining changes. This is the first situation where I’ve experienced this kind of behavior at the state level.”

Jackson said that Rossi’s actions diminish the good events and efforts in communities like Roxbury.

“There are a lot of great things happening in Roxbury,” he said. “People are often more apt to tell negative stories about this neighborhood than the better stories. My focus is and has been more on the positive achievements. My role as a councilor and as a truth teller is to talk about the great things. Comments and actions like this do not help and detract from reality. This takes away from the neighborhood achievements and our resilient families.”

“We’re not shocked because a lot of offensive, tasteless and discriminatory comments end up on social media. But we’re disappointed that it came from a law enforcement officer,” Michael Curry, Boston NAACP President said. “We would like to think that someone in an authority position would have the cultural awareness to know how offensive that is to communities of color. It shows a lack of sensitivity to the many boys and girls of color or white in a fatherless situation. You’d want people to have more compassion.”

“Ultimately, these truly tasteless jokes are just that. This generation seems to understand that, but it seems to rear its ugly head again,” Curry said. “But when it’s done by a person in power and authority, it is disturbing.”

Curry said that issues of racism and local law enforcement is not an uncommon issue, citing an instance from two years ago where racist graffiti was found in a secure part of a Boston Police station that officers and staff members only had access to.

“We like to believe that racism and bigotry is a thing of the past, but it doesn’t take much to determine it is not. It’s very common, but society clicks its heels three times hoping to end up in a better place. The challenge for us is to understand that diversity training is as necessary as it was 10, 20, and 40 years ago. It has no expiration date. Just because we don’t have Jim Crow Laws doesn’t mean we don’t have Jim Crow attitudes toward communities of color.”

According to information from MBTA Police Chief Paul MacMillian’s office, the MBTA Transit Police employs 182 white people, 24 black, 22 Asian, 21 Hispanic men and women.

MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said that the T is investigating whether or not other officers or employees “liked” the status. He told The Banner that the T became aware of this situation through news media outlets and that no customers or staff members have issued any complaints to their office.