The Byhalia Police Department has fired a white police officer who shared a misogynistic Facebook meme about U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ historic election.
“She will be an inspiration to young girls by showing if you sleep with the right powerfully connected men then you too can play second fiddle to a man with dementia. It’s basically a Cinderella story,” reads the meme Byhalia Police Officer David Pannell shared on Facebook, WREG in Memphis first reported yesterday.
Harris is not only the first woman elected to serve in the executive branch, but also the first Black American or American of Indian descent. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, plans to leave his private law practice to focus on his role as second gentleman.
The WREG story quoted Marshall County prosecutor Shirley Byers, who called the post “racist” and “sexist,” saying she had contacted the mayor and police chief of the roughly 59% Black town. WREG reported that Byhalia Police Chief Ben Moore said he had opened an investigation as soon as he learned about the post. Moore and the mayor, Phil Malone, are both white, but only about 38% of the town’s population is white.
Marshall County NAACP President Rodney Lowe condemned the officer’s post in a statement yesterday.
“Officer Pannell’s comments about the career ascendency of Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris were racist and misogynistic and unbecoming of a public servant that works in a city that is 45% African American,” read the statement, which Lowe sent to the Mississippi Free Press this morning.
The city population was 45% Black as of the 2010 Census, but the most recent Census estimates peg that number at 59% now.
“As the state and nation continues to deal with deep racial division, it is important that public servants use language that unites, not divides,” the Marshall County NAACP said.
A little over an hour after WREG broke the news about Parnell’s post and the ensuing investigation, Fox13 Memphis reported that Byhalia Police Chief Ben Moore said the city had terminated Pannell’s employment.
In the Marshall County NAACP’s Nov. 12 statement, the organization said it believes law enforcement throughout Marshall County has “a discriminatory bias and very dangerous pattern when dealing or interacting with” Black residents.
Town spokesperson Cindy R. Sloan told the Mississippi Free Press that the police chief will make a statement about Pannell’s firing after the Nov. 17 Byhalia Board of Alderpersons meeting.
Across the state, other white officials reacted negatively to President-elect Joe Biden and Harris’ victories. The Mississippi Free Press first reported about Mississippi House Rep. Price Wallace’s tweeted call for the state to “succeed (sic) from the Union” in response.
Wallace later apologized after a talk with Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn and after several national news outlets, including the Washington Post, picked up the story.