Four Alabama police officers are on suspension for making an alleged hate symbol with their hands in a photo following a drug bust.
Last week, the four Jasper Police Department officers were among a group of cops who captured a local drug dealer. A photographer for the Jasper Daily Mountain Eagle took a photo of everyone involved in the bust for an article detailing the arrest.
In the picture, four of the officers can be seen making an upside down “OK” hand gesture, which is believed by many people to be a symbol that means “white power," according to AL.com
After the symbol was noticed and its meaning was brought to light, Mayor David O'Mary — who is also in the photograph alongside the officers — confirmed that the cops who made the hand symbol have been suspended from the narcotics team.
"The Civil Service Board has a say in what happens relative to compensation loss. We feel it is within the powers of the Mayor to impose a five day loss of pay," O'Mary said in an email to AL.com. "In addition we will require some diversity training."
He added that the officers could remain suspended for two weeks.
It should be noted, though, that the symbol has not universally or definitively been declared a hateful gesture. For instance, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote in a blog post that the sign does not reflect “white power.” The group said that the racial meaning behind it was created in a media hoax on the image-board website 4chan.
"The 'OK' hand gesture hoax originated in February 2017 when an anonymous 4channer announced 'Operation O-KKK,' telling other members that 'we must flood Twitter and other social media websites...claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy,'" the ADL’s blog post said.
According to CBS News, some people say that the symbol is also used in the “circle game,” which is popular among kids. The concept behind the game is to trick others into looking at the gesture and then hitting them.
Be that as it may, the context of the photo indicates that it isn’t likely these cops were playing any game. They had serious expressions on their faces, and ironically, were all white men.
Although O'Mary said that he hadn’t asked the officers directly what they meant by using the gesture, he maintained that, regardless of their intent, they displayed “poor judgment.”
"That's contradictory to how we run our city. That's not our mindset. That's not the way we do things and they used poor judgment," he said.
O'Mary's assertion is right. If the officers wanted to simply make an innocent hand gesture, why not use the "thumbs up" sign or even an upright "OK" symbol. They deliberately used the upside down version, which clearly has many connotations that range from a silly child's game to an endorsement of white supremacy.
The officers should have thought twice about their decision, especially knowing that the photo was going to be distributed in a news publication where it would be seen by many eyes belonging to people of all different races and ethnicities.
It would appear that they knew exactly what they were doing and had absolutely no shame in it.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Flickr, sylvar