‘If black shoot them’: shocking racist messages sent by former Kentucky police chief to recruit

Todd Shaw’s lawyer says he ‘is not a racist in any sense of the word’ and was ‘just playing’ when he sent disturbing instructions to young officer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 10:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 10:22am

The former acting chief of a Kentucky police department instructed a police recruit to shoot black teenagers on sight if caught smoking marijuana, according to court documents.

“**** the right thing. If black shoot them,” assistant chief Todd Shaw wrote in response to a younger officer’s query, part of what the Jefferson County attorney’s office described as a pattern of “highly disturbing racist and threatening Facebook messages” from Shaw.

A nearly 30-year veteran of law enforcement, Shaw, 50, was the acting chief of the Prospect police department in Jefferson County, Kentucky, when he was fired over the messages in November.

The comments were uncovered by the Jefferson County attorney’s office in an unrelated investigation into whether Shaw should be prosecuted for allegedly interfering in the sexual abuse investigation of the Metro Police Explorer Program. He was cleared in that matter.

The documents reveal opinions and prejudices that bring into question Shaw’s integrity as a law enforcement officer
Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman

The messages were exchanged privately with a recruit in the Louisville Metropolitan police department, where Shaw had worked from 1995 to 2009, reaching the rank of sergeant. That recruit was not ultimately hired by the LMPD, according to officials.

In the same exchange about shooting black teenagers, the recruit, whose name was redacted in the court documents, asked what to do with the teens’ parents in such a scenario. Shaw responded: “If mom is hot then **** her. If dad is hot then handcuff him and make him **** my ****. Unless daddy is black. Then shoot him.”

In another exchange the unnamed recruit joked he would buy up all the properties around Shaw’s home and rent to “section 8”, a low-income housing voucher programme. Shaw replied “I like thugs sex anyway” and “I need target practice”.

The two also made racist comments about pictures they exchanged, as in one where the recruit posted a picture of a black man and woman with afros. The recruit asked: “Does this hair make it look like I have a gun in my hand?” to which Shaw replied: “To me, yes”.

Jefferson County lawyer Mike O’Connell, whose office uncovered the remarks, said in a statement: “Any individual who shares such blatant racist views should not be given a badge, a gun and a position of authority.” He added: “This type of bias from one officer gives a black eye to the countless policemen and women who do great work in our community each day.”

As a result of the uncovered exchanges, O’Connell’s office said it had halted 24 open prosecutions in which “the only evidence in a case would have been Mr Shaw’s testimony”.

Shaw’s lawyer Michael Burns did not immediately respond to an inquiry but told the Louisville Courier-Journal that his client “is not a racist in any sense of the word” and was “just playing”. Burns continued: “Actions speak louder than words and Mr Shaw’s actions during his career speak for themselves.”

On Thursday, Shaw filed a motion for a restraining order or temporary injunction in a Jefferson County circuit court, seeking to have the Facebook records deemed exempt from inspection, according to court documents.

Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman denied the motion, noting that because Shaw was the assistant police chief and acting chief for Prospect as the time of his resignation, “that responsibility lends itself to a higher level of public scrutiny”.

She continued: “While the court understands how embarrassing the documents may be to Shaw personally, they are not of the private nature intended to be shielded from public disclosure.

“The documents reveal opinions and prejudices that bring into question Shaw’s integrity as a law enforcement officer who has been entrusted to serve and protect all members of society.”

Shaw describes himself on his LinkedIn page as an “accomplished leader with over 29 years of progressively responsible public safety experience” and a “good communicator skilled in managing interpersonal relationships”.