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Missouri city officials apologize for hiring a police officer after racist online post

The city of Pleasant Hill said it will improve background checks for new hires after they sworn in a police officer without searching his social media history, leading citizens to discover a racist post he made about a month ago.

Mayor John EP King and the Pleasant Hill Police Department issued a statement Wednesday morning apologizing for swearing in Officer Jacob Smith without looking at his social media profiles before he was hired.

Smith was given hours of paid leave after Monday’s city council meeting and was fired from the police force around 1 a.m. Wednesday following a review of the allegations.

“It’s important for us to identify when mistakes have been made and admit them,” the city said. “And in times when we’ve made a mistake, it’s important for the community to point out when we need to be held accountable.”

Police Chief Tommy Wright said the post showed a racist meme aimed at black people. The Star does not publish the details of what it said.

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The content of the post “did not reflect the standards of the city, the police, your elected officials, law enforcement officials and the community as a whole,” the city said in its statement.

“There is no excuse for racism, insinuations of violence or any form of hatred in our community,” the city said.

Wright said the police hiring process usually includes a social media background check that would evaluate the rhetoric and behavior of potential officers. The move, officials said, was inadvertently overlooked in Smith’s hiring.

Officials had completed other steps of the background check, including a public records check, criminal record and court checks, and searches for images, videos, names and news related to the applicant.

The city said the error revealed issues within Pleasant Hill’s hiring process, which officials hope to resolve by clearly communicating expectations for future hiring processes, creating checklists so all steps must be completed and developing more thorough background checks.

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Officials said they understand the incident will damage public trust in the police and the city, but they hope to be transparent in the future as they work to improve the city’s hiring process.

“The Pleasant Hill police officers, sergeants and leadership work hard every day to provide the highest level of safety and protection to this community,” King said. “These officers are part of this community and they want their police station to be the pride of this city.”

“Please don’t let one person detract from the work they’ve done over the years to make the Pleasant Hill Police Department what it is today.”

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