Belleville Police Service declines to fire police officer over confederate flag, civil war comments, pro-Trump sentiments.
The Belleville Police Department has published a muted apology after one of its officers donned a confederate flag T-shirt and posted a photo of himself wearing the hate symbol to Facebook.
This image was made public by another Facebook user on Sunday, May 31. The post was made as a series of police-abolition demonstrations and anti-police rebellions reached a frenzied pitch across the United States.
First Class Constable Todd Bennett was identified first by the social media posting. His identity was subsequently confirmed by a statement which was published by Belleville Police Services on Tuesday afternoon.
Bennett’s post shows him posing with an unidentified white male. In the photo, Bennett appears to be wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the “confederate flag”, a symbol of a centuries-old failed rebellion which fought to preserve the institution of Black slavery in the United States.
The Confederate flag is recognized in most settings outside of the US South as a ‘hate symbol’ according to the US based Anti-Defamation League.
After a commenter referred to the flag as a ‘treason flag’ Bennett glibly responded ‘I am wearing the real Independence day flag. The south will rise again! Trump 2020”
He has since removed the posting.
The Ontario Sunshine list confirms a First Class Constable Todd Bennett drew a salary of $108,000 in 2019. In addition to his job with the police, Bennett appears to be the proprietor of ‘Woo-doggy’ a chili-dog company registered to a Mr. Todd Bennett of 137 Moira St. West, a residential address in the city of Belleville.
The statement published by Belleville Police Service regarding the controversy around Mr. Todd’s posting explains that the material was deemed ‘offensive’ and that the Police Service took action when it became aware of the situation. It also states that Mr. Bennett has since removed the post and has apologized.
What does the Confederate flag symbolize?
Constable Todd Bennett’s posting does not occur in a political vacuum. Starting on May 25, 2020 a wave of raucous and boisterous protests kicked off across the United States of America calling for an end to what they say is racist policing and police brutality.
Organizers of the demonstrations have called for the disarmament and defunding of police departments across the United States. There has been a wave of civil conflict and violence has frequently been perpetrated by police against demonstrators. Several have been killed. America is in a political and economic shambles.
The context of Mr. Bennett’s innocuous post is one which positions himself as a member of the policing institution and as the supporter of an ideology which sought to preserve the institution of slavery over 150 years ago in the United States.
Some claim that in the South, the ‘Confederate Flag’ represents a way of life or ‘heritage not hate’, but this has been challenged by anti-hate groups and Black activists. The US Marine Corps has recently banned its members from publicly displaying the symbol.
Mr. Bennett’s statement ‘The south will rise again’ appears to infer that, somehow, the South will again fight the Union. Undeniably, it is a call to civil war.
Taken in the context of what is transpiring in the United States it is difficult not to infer from his statements that Mr. Bennett supports the Southern way of life, including the institution of slavery which it sought to defend. Bennett’s words also reveal that he wishes for the South to rise in armed conflict against the North.
Mr. Bennett’s post became public on the same day that US President Donald Trump threatened to use military force and lethal violence against demonstrators. The photo of Bennett wearing the confederate flag is positioned alongside an exhortation to vote for Trump.
Mr. Bennett’s words are a damning endorsement of a system of racist violence, police brutality and unchecked support for state fascism which activists have repeatedly said is rampant in police departments across Canada and the United States.
The posting was also made public one day before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that “There is a lot to do” in Canada in response to addressing anti-Black racism and discrimination in Canada.
We reached out to Mr. Bennett’s business Woo-Doggy for comment. It is our understanding he is still employed by the Belleville Police Service.