IRVINGTON, NJ – Four Irvington police officers who starred in a controversial music video that featured the town’s police union president spouting what some have called racially insensitive and homophobic remarks are facing internal affairs charges and could be fired, officials said.
Officer Maurice Gattison — who went by the handle “Gat The Great” and called himself a “felon for life” while rapping in two separate videos — and three other officers were charged with conduct unbecoming a police officer, an infraction that could cost them their jobs, Irvington Police Director Joseph Santiago said.
A disciplinary proceeding is expected to be held later this month.
Gattison, 44, has downplayed the controversy, saying his use of the word “faggot” was not meant to be derogatory.
“When I say the words … I never say it like intending to slander anybody. I’ve never used that term like that in my whole life,” he said. “They don’t have nothing. My career is impeccable. I do my job.”
The videos, which went viral in March after they were obtained by The Star-Ledger and posted on NJ.com, the newspaper’s on-line home, drew the ire of Irvington’s mayor and city leaders. The day after the videos were released, Councilman David Lyons called for all four officers to be fired.
“If that’s the way it goes, then I have no problem with it,” Lyons said recently. “If they lose their jobs, that’s life. I think police officers need to take responsibility for their actions and they should have thought about the consequences before they took those actions.”
Gattison, an 18-year-veteran of the Irvington force, scoffed at the criticism.
“Anyone who thinks I should be fired is an idiot,” he said.
In the video for the song “Temper Like An Alcoholic,” Gattison used the word “faggot” several times and made promises of violence against his rivals.
Another officer, identified by several law enforcement sources as Internal Affairs Detective Michael Gardner, can be seen wearing his police badge while swinging what appears to be a medieval mace.
The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.
In another video titled “2 Minutes of Gat,” Gattison can be seen wearing a gaudy fur coat and refers to himself as a “felon for life” while warning someone might “have to meet (his) Smith & Wesson,” before pretending to point a gun at the camera.
Gattison took particular issue with the characterization of the “felon for life” lyric, claiming he rescinds the boast by sarcastically saying the word “right” in the next line.
Lyons believes some of Gattison’s lyrics could compromise his duties as a police officer.
“If that was some white police officers rapping about the N-word we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” he said. “And if you’ve got police officers who do that kind of rapping and then they come up on some gay people, what do you think a gay person is going to think?”
Santiago has said most Irvington officers were aware of the videos months before The Star-Ledger reported about them. Lyons called for an independent hearing officer to review the case and openly questioned Santiago’s ability to be impartial, claiming the director and Gattison have a friendly relationship.
Gattison has said Deputy Chief Dwayne Mitchell — who is running the agency while Police Chief Michael Chase serves an indefinite suspension in the wake of serious misconduct allegations — viewed the videos last year and allowed Gattison to perform at the department’s Christmas party.
It was Mitchell who brought the internal affairs charges against Gattison and the other officers, according to Santiago, who declined to comment on Mitchell’s involvement in the investigation.
Mitchell was unavailable for comment. Gattison laughed when questioned about Mitchell’s role in the case.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” he said.
From The Star-Ledger