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One KPD officer resigns, another disciplined after blackface photo

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 12:55 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - One Knoxville Police officer has resigned and another was disciplined after a photo surfaced online showing a child dressed in blackface.

An investigation into the incident was opened in November 2020.

According to KPD, Leah Miller resigned on December 15 and Todd McFaun was issued a written reprimand by Chief Eve Thomas on January 6. Both Miller and McFaun were reassigned amid the investigation.

“The family had recently watched the movie Forrest Gump, and decided to dress as characters from the movie for Halloween. The two children were dressed as the characters Bubba and Lt. Dan from the movie. The family took a photo, and the picture was posted to both Todd and Leah’s personal Facebook accounts,” said a statement from KPD.

Officials said they determined that both Officer MacFaun and Miller were in violation of Code of Conduct section 1.19 – Unbecoming Conduct and General Order 1.43 regarding department use of social media.

“Though it was apparent that Officers MacFaun and Miller did not have malicious intentions, the costume reflected poor judgment, was entirely inappropriate given the long history of the use of blackface to oppress and stereotype the black community and has no place in society,” said KPD.

Officials said the decision to handle the code violation through written reprimand was due to McFaun’s exemplary performance at the department and his willingness to offer a genuine apology and “learn and grow” from the incident.

The write-up will remain on McFaun’s record for the rest of his career. He will also be required to complete cultural bias training as he returns to his role in the organized crime unit.

“I was disappointed in the severe lapse in judgment shown by Officers MacFaun and Miller that resulted in the public depiction of blackface, which should deeply offend us all. Though their actions were done only in the spirit of Halloween, those actions were hurtful and insensitive. I will not tolerate, accept or condone offensive or racially-insensitive behavior of any kind,” said a statement from Chief Eve Thomas. “Officer MacFaun has accepted responsibility for his actions, shown an understanding of the painful history evoked by the depiction of blackface, and acknowledged the need to learn from this experience. We feel confident that Officer MacFaun will learn from this, receive the appropriate training, and continue to be an outstanding public servant.”

Any officer who receives three or more disciplinary actions over a 12-month period will trigger an “early-warning system,” which will cause the employee’s position to be reviewed by a supervisor, the statement from KPD said.

WVLT News chose not to publish the image to protect the identity of the minors shown.

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