Future Farrell PD chief publicly apologizes over n-word in email

farrell pennsylvania police chief n word apology
Thomas Burke (center, in front of microphone), delivers an apology Monday afternoon in Farrell after admitting to using a variant of the n-word in an email.


FARRELL, Pa. (WKBN) – Farrell’s future police chief gave a public apology Monday after he admitted to using a variant of the n-word in an email earlier this year.

Thomas Burke, who is white, made the statement around 4 p.m. Monday in the rotunda of the city’s municipal building.

“To everybody here, to everybody out there, my deepest. I cannot tell you, from the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry. I apologize deeply,” he said.

Burke also apologized for his lack of judgment when the initial email was sent.

WKBN received what was reportedly a copy of the e-mail, dated as being sent in April 2015.

The message, about a reading fundraiser, reads: “Good morning. Please click and review. Even a one dollar will be greatly appreciated. Them Sharon ‘expletive’ gotta learn how to read.”

Farrell Mayor Olive McKeithan said that Burke admitted to her that he wrote the word in an email earlier this year.

“As the mayor of Farrell and as an African American, I stand behind Mr. Burke as police chief for the City of Farrell,” she said.

McKeithan said that she knows Burke and considers him to be an upstanding man of character.

“Until you get to know a man’s character, you can’t judge him by one off-the-cuff remark, or else we would have to judge all white people as equally guilty,” McKeithan said. “I have spoken with Mr. Burke and consider the matter as closed.”

But others are not so supportive of Burke’s comments.

Bishop Martha J. Sanders, who has lived in Farrell for 82 years, said she questions whether Burke will be able to reach the youth in the community, after the email was made public.

“I am concerned, because there are many young blacks in Farrell who are already unruly, who are already disenfranchised,” she said.

Reverend Tiffany Holden, of Redeemed Sanctuary, is also skeptical.

“It is not OK for someone who is going to be head of this community to be allowed to say such words,” she said.

McKeithan said there is no pending disciplinary action against Burke. An upcoming community meeting is being organized at the request of community leaders and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The president of the Mercer County NAACP said there needs to be regulations.

“As the president, the NAACP has some things in place the city could use. That’s the dialogue we’re going to have. We can put things in place to stop things like this from happening,” said President Monica Gregory.

Farrell decided in September to withdraw from the Southwest Regional Police Department and form its own police department. Burke was chosen to head that department, and will start in the new role on Jan. 1, 2016.

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