DAYTONA BEACH SHORES, Fla. – A Daytona Beach Shores public safety officer was officially terminated Wednesday after an investigation revealed that he sent a racially inappropriate photo through a social media app, according to a city order.
Officer Matthew Moriarty is accused of sending the inappropriate photo, which pictured him with what appeared to be an Afro hairstyle and beard drawn onto his head and face, with a cartoon-style gun, a syringe emoji showing blood and a cartoon-style police vehicle with its lights on, city officials said.
Investigators said the photo, which was sent to about 15 Snapchat users while Moriarty was off duty, also had a caption that read,“This is how I celebrate Black History Month.”
Officials said that one of the recipients complained about the photo to Public Safety Department Director Stephan Dembinsky in early February. Moriarty also admitted to sending the photo through the app, according to city officials.
Dembinsky immediately suspended Moriarty and ordered that an internal investigation be conducted to determine whether any pattern of racial bias could be seen throughout Moriarty's employment.
Authorities said investigators looked closely at Moriarty's past traffic stops and no apparent bias was found.
"This shows me there’s no way to really believe that anytime he testifies or has an encounter with someone who doesn’t look like him that he’s not going to be bias or prejudice to that person," Dembrinsky said.
Officials said Moriarty's actions were damaging to the department.
"This is not behavior that’s going to be accepted," Dembrinsky said. "There’s no chief in America that will put up with this kind of behavior and this officer he cannot be a Police officer, he doesn’t deserve to be."
Dembinsky called Moriarty's behavior "reprehensible" and recommended to the city manager that Moriarty be terminated.
"Nobody who holds these types of racist biases can be an unbiased and effective law enforcement officer, and this type of behavior will never be tolerated or defended by this agency,” he said. “These actions undermined the public trust and only serve to make the job of dedicated officers more difficult."
In the two-page final order released Wednesday, City Manager Michael T. Booker sustained the recommendation made by Dembinsky.
The order said investigators did not find any pattern that would lead them to believe that Moriarty acted in a racist manner while carrying out his duties, but referred to his actions as a "15 second lapse of judgment."
Booker said that regardless of how short the "lapse of judgment" may have been, it could still be detrimental in their line of work.
"That lapse of judgment, however brief, is of such a nature that it could reasonably result in adverse impacts to the City and its law enforcement functions," he wrote. "The City cannot tolerate actions that are so racially insensitive and which convey a state of mind, however brief, that have and will taint the City and its law enforcement functions in a pervasive manner."
Officials with the Public Safety Department said they are working with the U.S. Department of Justice to provide bias training to each of its officers in an effort to avoid such actions from taking place again.
Dembinsky said he has gone through the training and it teaches people about their biases.
“This additional training will be part of the city's ongoing efforts to ensure that its employees deliver the highest quality of public services to the citizens of the City and the general public,” Booker said.
Moriarty began working for the department in November of 2015, according to department officials.
Authorities said an additional complaint had been filed against Moriarty Wednesday that was unrelated. Department officials told News 6 the complaint was not over a social media post, but that they could not provide further details until the investigation was complete.