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Alabama town moves to dissolve its police department over texted racist joke

The Vincent City Council took action after the comment was shared among officers.
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Lawmakers in a small Alabama town on Thursday moved to fire its police chief and dissolve the entire department after a racist joke was texted among officers.

The Vincent City Council, representing almost 2,000 people about 35 miles east of Birmingham, voted unanimously to begin the process of ending city police services and contracting with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

"I have thought long and hard about this. It's not a decision that I have come to very easily," Mayor James Latimer said at the council meeting Thursday ahead of votes to terminate the chief and assistant chief and end the department.

"As all of you know, I've always wanted us to have the best police department possible. I think in light of recent events, it's no longer possible, at least in this moment, for us to continue services of the police department."

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego said he backed the move.

"The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office was recently notified by the Vincent City Council and Mayor regarding the recent allegations of misconduct within the Vincent Police Department and we equally condemn these actions," the sheriff's department said in a statement Friday.

"Sheriff John Samaniego stands with the City of Vincent in providing emergency law enforcement related services for the citizens during this time."

Police Chief James Srygley could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

Assistant Chief John Goss hung up the phone when reached by NBC News and didn't immediately return voicemail and email messages.

Latimer, a police officer in another city in his day job, said Friday that he informed Srygley and Goss of the council action. The mayor declined to characterize their reactions.

"I know the community is hurting right now," Latimer said Friday. "I appreciate their patience and their understanding as we go through the process of trying to recover from this. It is a stressful time for all of us. It's a heartbreaking thing."

The racist comment shared on text did not surprise Vincent residents, said Kenneth Dukes, president of the NAACP Shelby County branch, who credited public pressure for the council action.

"This has happened before, they've had this kind of attitude and conduct that's been displayed before (by police)," Dukes said Friday. "A lot of citizens were just fed up and came together in strong numbers."