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‘A punch in the gut.’ City council votes to dissolve police department after accusations emerge over a racist joke about slavery

By Jade Gordon and Preston Fore, CNN

A city council in Alabama has voted to dissolve its three-member police department after the assistant chief sent a racist text message to other officers, according to the mayor, James Latimer.

At an emergency meeting of the Vincent City Council on August 4, members moved to suspend with pay Chief of Police James Srygley and Assistant Chief of Police John L. Gross. The third officer, Lee Cardin, resigned later that evening after the council voted to pursue fully dissolving the department.

It left the city’s nearly 2,000 residents with no active police officers.

The next day, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said it was “currently handling” all law enforcement emergency calls for Vincent, which is located about 35 miles east of Birmingham.

“The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office was recently notified by the Vincent City Council and Mayor regarding the recent allegations of misconduct within the Vincent Police Department, and we equally condemn these actions,” the release stated. “Sheriff (John) Samaniego stands with the City of Vincent in providing emergency law enforcement-related services for the citizens during this time.”

Angry residents had called for the assistant police chief to be fired at a City Council meeting August 2 after the text message, which included a racist joke about slavery, surfaced on social media, CNN affiliate WBRC reported.

“To me, that was just a punch in the gut like going back to the 1930s and ’40s, and I often forget that we’re still not there,” Lois Garrett, a local resident, told WBRC. “It hurt. I was hurt; I was embarrassed because I thought we were better than that.”

CNN reached out to members of the city council and the Vincent police officers but has not heard back.

The council is set to discuss the matter at its upcoming meeting August 16.

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