a month-long investigation, Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer announced the
disciplinary actions for police officer Peter Burns, who posted racist comments
about President Barack Obama in December.
Burns has accepted the following conditions, which included advice from Pleasantville’s legal counsel, recommendations from Police Chief Richard Love, and discussions with Burns and his PBA attorney:
- A 60-day suspension, without pay or benefits
- Forfeiture of 25 vacations days
- A fitness-for-duty assessment by a Village-selected provider
- A training program focused on diversity and sensitivity
- A two-year “last-chance” agreement following his return to duty
Scherer explained the rationale behind the outcome in a village Board of Trustees public meeting Monday, Jan. 27.
“The posting was offensive on many levels – its obscenity, its racial language, and its implied threats to the President,” he said.
“These statements undermine confidence in law enforcement, and they cast doubt on the ability of this officer to fulfill his sworn duties in a fair, unbiased manner. I want to be clear that the Village has no interest in political beliefs of its employees. We do, however, have a fundamental interest in ensuring that the statements and actions of our employees do not harm their ability to fulfill their responsibilities,” he added.
Scherer said the police department conducted a comprehensive investigation, and that the village spent many hours reviewing this incident, the rights of employers and employees, the special responsibilities borne by police officers, and “the evolving legal and policy issues that surround social media communications." He said Burns has apologized to Pleasantville residents, Love and his colleagues, and confirmed a personal commitment to earn the trust of all his future service.
“As we move forward from this incident, we remind everyone of the bedrock commitment of this community and its Village Board – that every resident of Pleasantville, every visitor, every person passing through this good place, deserves confidence that they will be fairly and equally treated, regardless of race, faith or personal beliefs,” Scherer said.
“Your elected board, your police chief and his officers, and your village administration renew that commitment today,” he added.