A 25-year law enforcement veteran is under fire for posting on his Facebook page comments described as homophobic, and city officials quickly decried the thread and its sentiments.
Tahlequah Police Detective Jeff Haney posted a meme that depicted two naked men on a motorcycle, with the words “Bikers for Buttigieg.” The meme referred to Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay Democratic candidate for president who is a professed Christian in a committed relationship. But it was Haney’s comments, moreso than the meme, that grabbed the attention of Cherokee County’s LGBTQ community.
When one of Haney’s friends commented that the photo of two gay men seemed to be the “new norm,” Haney replied that he sees it every day with “our victims.”
“Luckily, my church and pastor are still ‘normal’ and do not bend to the societal acceptance that [is] being considered the new norm,” Haney commented. He did not identify his church or pastor.
Oklahomans for Equality Chapter: TahlEquality President Carden Crow, of Tahlequah, shared the post on his personal social media page, and outrage quickly spread among the LGBTQ community and its allies. Dozens of area residents called or sent Facebook or text messages to the Daily Press, complaining that a law enforcement officer – a figure of authority – was openly disparaging LGBTQ people.
Crow said he was appalled, both as an LGBTQ rights activist and as a domestic violence victims’ advocate.
“Recently, our board members were made aware of a controversial social media post by a detective with Tahlequah Police Department; this post seemed to take aim at members of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole and demonstrated a disregard for the safety, value, and well-being of our vibrant local queer community and their allies,” he said.
Shortly after the furor erupted, Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron released a statement indicating she has been made aware of the post, and that it does not reflect the views of the city itself.
“The City of Tahlequah and the Tahlequah Police Department take matters like this very seriously and as such will be investigating the post,” Catron said.
Police Chief Nate King also confirmed an internal investigation will be conducted into the complaint, and said that regardless of the outcome, TPD will continue to build upon relationships with all those whom they serve.
“TPD takes great pride in serving the people and diversity of our city. This investigation and the outcome will be given the utmost consideration by all those involved,” said King.
Haney is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and thus could be under a degree of union protection.
Crow said many community members have reached out and expressed outrage and concern to OKEQ. He said he will continue to advocate on behalf of those who felt threatened or degraded by Haney’s remarks.
“We are likewise thankful for the members of local law enforcement and city officials, who have been accommodating and attentive to our needs and concerns. Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron and Police Chief Nate King have both responded to our outreach efforts with swiftness and candor,” said Crow.
He said the organization will remain in contact with Catron and King in hopes of finding an adequate resolution to the matter.
“The board of OKEQ: TahlEquality, as well as those that we serve, are fully integrated community members who live, work, pay taxes, and attend religious services in the very community that local law enforcement is tasked with protecting,” he said. “Likewise, members of Tahlequah Police Department have voluntarily assisted with keeping our annual Pride event safe from anyone who would seek to harass or injure us because they fail to see our value as human beings.”
Haney had deleted the post as of Monday evening, but a few of his Facebook “friends” were continuing to complain that their “freedom of speech” was being suppressed.