After an investigation into social media posts he made that disparaged minorities, the homeless and other groups, Columbia police Lt. Brian Tate has been reassigned to a position in which he’ll have limited interaction with the public.
Acting Police Chief Jill Schlude announced the decision in a Friday news release.
“While the City cannot disclose specific personnel actions towards employees, I have determined that there were violations of department policies concerning social media and off-duty conduct which brought discredit to the department,” Schlude said. “I also reviewed the officer’s disciplinary history as well as the time period over which the posts were made in reaching my determination as to the appropriate personnel action. The officer has been placed in a capacity which has limited interaction with the public until further notice.”
That position will involve administrative duties such as grant writing, Schlude said Friday afternoon.
Before his promotion to lieutenant in September, Tate was in charge of the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit. Schlude said a departmental review of the racial profiling and use-of-force complaints during the time Tate oversaw the unit is ongoing and will take “an extended period of time.”
The department also is reviewing “a sampling” of traffic tickets issued by Tate “to determine if there is any disparate treatment which would warrant further investigation.”
“Columbia Police officers must be held to the highest standards of conduct,” Schlude said. “We strongly believe in the Principles of Community adopted by the City Council and know we must take the lead to eliminate any possible bias and discrimination within the department and increase our own individual understanding of these issues through education, training and interaction with others.”
Schlude also said in the release that all Police Department employees will complete existing Building Inclusive Communities training within the year.
Reacting to the announcement, Race Matters, Friends president Traci Wilson-Kleekamp said she wanted to know if Tate had been disciplined and what the mayoral candidates — Mayor Brian Treece and Chris Kelly — thought of the outcome. “Who gets to keep their job after saying that the South should have won the war? Unless people are silly enough to think slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War, those are my questions.”
But on her Facebook page, Wilson-Kleekamp unleashed a diatribe peppered with expletives, calling Schlude’s decision “Ken Burton leadership 2.0” and saying that Schlude “better not become the interim police chief because it will continue to be business as usual except the good old boy crap will be run by a woman as the mouthpiece.”
Burton resigned from the police department in early January.
Treece said that he would have made a different decision regarding Tate than Schlude, but recognized the acting chief’s authority.
“It’s not the personnel decision I would have made, but under Columbia’s charter it is the police chief’s call,” Treece said. “I thought his tweets were unacceptable and racist and misogynistic and undermined the fair administration of justice.”
In a news release Friday, mayoral candidate Chris Kelly said that though he found Tate’s comments “reprehensible,” he would refrain from commenting on the decision. Some of Kelly’s tweets have been characterized by Treece as inappropriate.
Interim City Manager John Glascock supported Schlude’s decision.
“We must take responsibility for our mistakes and actions even though they are in the past and can’t be changed. However, we can learn from our mistakes, grow and move forward,” Glascock said in the news release. “My expectation for all City staff, and especially of those in a leadership position, is to be a part of creating a community that’s inclusive of all citizens who have differing perspectives, identities and lived experiences. My hope is that this officer is on that path and will be a shining example of second chances.”
Tate had been on paid administrative leave during the investigation, which began after the Columbia Daily Tribune asked Schlude about the tweets, one of which suggested there would be less gang violence in the country if the South had won the Civil War.
The Tribune sent city officials several screenshots of tweets from Tate’s Twitter account, including one shaming a poor family for living in a mobile home after it caught fire.
Tate repeatedly identified himself as a Columbia police officer in his feed, which included tweets that disparaged homeless people and Asian drivers and called President Barack Obama’s praise for the work of the Black Lives Matter movement “disgusting,” the Tribune reported.