A Louisiana police officer became a town’s police chief even after he shared a racist meme on social media.
Wayne Welsh drew nationwide attention to Estherwood, Louisiana, when he shared a meme with a racist caption in summer 2017. The image showed a white mother holding her daughter’s head underwater with the words “When your daughter’s first crush is a little n****r boy.” He was the Estherwood Police Department assistant chief of police at the time.
Ernest Villejoin, who ran the department in 2017, vowed to punish Welsh for his actions, KADN reports.
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“I got him out yesterday. I suspended him and I was going to take the phone away and he was not allowed to get on Facebook in the unit,” Villejoin said shortly after the incident.
He also apologized for the harm caused by the image.
“I know Wayne didn’t do this on purpose. He didn’t do this offend anybody. I apologize to anybody that it offended, believe me,” Villejoin added.
At the time, Welsh was vocal about his belief he deserved to keep his job, according to a separate KADN report.
“I just don’t feel like I should have to resign on this because there is not a policy saying I can’t do this on Facebook,” said Welsh.
Welsh submitted his resignation anyway, but he received a surprising response: the village board wouldn’t accept it.
Former Mayor Anthony Borill says he refused the letter because he felt it was Villejoin’s call to make, according to The Times-Picayune.
“I told Ernest, it’s your department,” Borill said in a recent interview. “I backed the chief. His opinion is the one that counts.”
Welsh remembers it differently.
He says Borill told him, “‘This is our town. This is bulls**t what’s going on. If they don’t like it, they can come to our town and complain. I’m the mayor. I’m taking this.’”
In the end, Welsh was suspended for two weeks without pay, and when Villejoin resigned last spring, he was promoted.
Louisiana NAACP President Michael McClanahan believes this situation sets an alarming precedent.
“What I take from all of this is when I go through that little town, I better be doing five miles below the speed limit, and I better go through there in the day time and not darkness,” McClanahan said. “And tell all my family the same. Don’t stop at no store, just go through there and keep going.”
Welsh insists he isn’t racist and swears he treats citizens in his town equally. Data examined by The Times-Picayune shows 300 out of 381 tickets written between 2016 and 2018 were given to white people. Census data from 2010 shows 94 percent of Estherwood's 889 residents were white.
“I treat everybody the same,” Welsh said. “You don’t cross me, I don’t cross you. We all get along good.”
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