Scranton officers terminated for ‘racist behavior’

News

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti revealed two city police officers were terminated for alleged racist communications. Over the weekend, documents were released to the public on social media.

A male and female officer were let go from the Scranton police department for “racist messages.” They were discovered in August of 2019. The messages were made in the years prior to that discovery.

“The Scranton Police Department does not condone the acts of the people who were investigated,” Scranton interim Police Chief Leonard Namiotka said.

The police chief says his department has zero tolerance for racist behavior.

Two former officers of the Scranton Police Department were terminated in June. It’s alleged that the officers used multiple racial slurs in messages to each other.

“I only saw what was posted online. I did not read the entire transcript. I did not want to read the entire transcript but from what I saw, it was very repulsive, disgusting comments between them,” Namiotka said.

The news of the officers termination came to light Monday night after messages, allegedly written by the officers, were posted on social media over the weekend.

Eyewitness News asked Mayor Cognetti why the initial termination of the two officers was not made transparent to the public from the start of the investigation.

“Personnel issues are something that we don’t come out here and declare. When we terminate people, we don’t go make big statements how we terminated people,” Cognetti said.

The city says they have since taken steps to enact positive change.

Cognetti says they’ve increased training in the police department by 50 percent, along with city-wide bias training.

“In addition, we’ve put money into the general fund for reviewing what an independent police review board might look like,” Cognetti said.

Chief Namiotka says he understands trust has been broken.

“The officers now… We have to rebuild that trust with the public going forward. Let them know that was specifically two individuals, not the entire department,” Namiotka said.

The city has also taken steps to encourage a more diverse police force by removing the requirement for applicants to have an Act 120 certification from police academy before they can apply to be an officer.

“By taking that out, we then got 95 applicants to take the civil service exam. I believe 87 people sat for that exam just a couple of weeks ago. It was a diverse pool of applicants,” Cognetti said.

The city has not named the two officers yet.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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