One Knoxville officer resigns, another disciplined over photo with person in blackface

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knoxville Police Department has released the results of an internal investigation into a photo depicting a person in blackface shared on social media on Halloween.

Knoxville Police confirmed Monday that officer Todd MacFaun has been reprimanded for his role in a photo depicting a person in blackface that was shared on social media on Halloween. Another officer, Leah Miller, resigned on Dec. 15 before the completion of the internal investigation.

Police Chief Eve Thomas said in November she launched an internal investigation after she became aware of a photo shared on social media of two officers with an individual in blackface.

A release from the department said the officers shared a family photo dressed like characters from the movie ‘Forrest Gump‘ for Halloween, including MacFaun’s children dressed as the characters Bubba and Lt. Dan.

“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,” Thomas said. “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.” 

Officer MacFaun was issued a written reprimand by Chief Thomas on Jan. 6. If an officer receives three or more disciplinary actions over a 12-month period, it triggers the early-warning system and that employee will be subject to a supervisory review. He will also receive additional cultural bias training.

While that investigation was taking place, Officers Miller and MacFaun were temporarily reassigned and prohibited from working secondary employment. MacFaun has since returned to his previous assignment in the Organized Crime Unit.

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