Sunday, September 30, 2007
Noose found hanging in Long Island police station.
A noose was found dangling in a Long Island town's police department, horrifying officials who rushed to condemn the hateful act.
The scandal at the Hempstead Police Department began early Friday, when a maintenance man spotted the noose hanging from a pipe in a men's locker room.
Officials said they were stunned that racism would rear its head in the diverse department - and questioned whether the act was linked to a deputy chief's recent promotion or a push to recruit more minorities.
"I used to read about this with the KKK, as far back as I can remember," said Perry Pettus, a town trustee. "To hear about something like this in this community, it's just a sad situation."
Nassau County and Hempstead police were investigating who hung the noose, long an emblem of lynchings and racism in the Old South. Scorn for the symbol has been renewed since three nooses were hung outside a school in Jena, La., last year, prompting race-related fights and arrests that have captivated the country.
"It's just mindboggling in the wake of the high-profile case in Jena that you would do that, that someone would be so full of hate," said Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall.
In Hempstead, officials said about half of the 107-member department are minorities. Department officials recently hung a banner announcing their participation in an effort to recruit more women and minorities to be cops.
Several community leaders expressed concern that the noose could be linked to the April promotion of Willie Dixon, who is black, to deputy police chief.
Wing would not discuss what evidence was collected in the locker room, but confirmed that only cops have access to the basement room.
"They're upset, leaning toward outrage," Wing said of the department's reaction. "It's because of all of the symbolism that the noose comes with historically and the fact that it was hung in a police department."
Longtime residents said the incident was out of character for their community.
"I've lived here all my life, and I've never heard of anything like this," said Edward Tolver 2nd, president of the Hempstead NAACP.
"[The] Hempstead Police Department is one of the most diverse police departments in the state. It's sad to see something like this happen."