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Critics demand change at Bartow PD after another officer leaves

The department has seen several incidents in the past seven months.

BARTOW, Fla. — Community activists say they’re growing impatient with the speed at which the city of Bartow is addressing what critics call systemic racism within the police department.

In the latest of several incidents in the past seven months, an officer resigned after directing an LGBTQ slur at a Black man.

“This is the fourth,” said Pastor Clayton Cowart, whose organization, Poor and Minority Justice Association, has been bringing pressure on the department to do more to address what they consider a systemic racism issue within the department.

“It tells me that the climate in Bartow is terrible and there needs to be a change,” Pastor Cowart said.

On September 9, officer Timothy Daughtry resigned from the department after admitting he’d directed profanity and an LGBTQ slur at a Black man who’d called the department for help.

“The supervisor had someone take him off the site because he couldn’t control his behavior,” Cowart said.

It’s the latest incident in a department with only about 40 police officers.

In March 2017, an officer was fired for referring to former President Barack Obama as a "gorilla" on social media.

In February of this year, a police officer accused of using a racial slur - on duty - was allowed to retire before the department launched an investigation.

In May of this year, the department’s now-former chief, Joe Hall resigned amid calls for an inquiry into racial bias at the department. Hall later denied that was the reason he left.

And now, Daughtry’s resignation. In a statement, Interim Police Chief Bryan Dorman said he was planning to fire Daughtry.

“I will not tolerate that type of behavior from any member of this organization,” Dorman wrote. “Knowing his action would not be tolerated by me, Mr. Daughtry elected to resign.”

Still, critics point to an ongoing lack of representation on the force that reflects the community. According to Pastor Cowart, there is one Black officer at Bartow PD, and she works at a local school.

“That’s not safe. That’s not security for those who are Black and live within the area, it’s just not, something is wrong,” Pastor Cowart said.

Interim Chief Dorman declined to address the accusations of racism.

Pastor Cowart says action is only taken at Bartow Police after his group brings the incidents to their attention.

At this point, they plan to re-direct their voice toward city hall and Bartow’s City Manager.

“He has to make sure that he puts someone in place that is going to change the climate and culture of the Bartow police department," Pastor Cowart said.

Cowart says his organization, the Poor and Minority Justice Association, is planning to hold a demonstration on October 8 outside Bartow City Hall.

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