I think we have all been to public dinners, like a wedding, or some other special event, where a speaker embarrasses himself or herself by being uncouth or saying something wildly inappropriate for the gathering. For the attendees of the Retirement Dinner for Delaware’s Fraternal Order of Police – Lodge 5 last Friday night at the Executive Banquet & Conference Center on Rt. 896 south of Newark, it was one of those times. But instead of being just inappropriate and uncouth, a speaker’s comments bordered on, if not were, bigoted and malicious.
The speaker was former Delaware Fraternal Order of Police President Fred Calhoun. He was presented that night with an award from State Representatives Valerie Longhurst, Larry Mitchell and Franklin Cooke and Senator Jack Walsh for reasons passing understanding. U.S. Senator Chris Coons and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer were also in attendance.
During his remarks, Calhoun was discussing his career, and that he knew a good man and priest named Father Murphy, and that, for luck before a shift, Calhoun would “rub up against him [Father Murphy] to get some good juju” – which is weird in and of itself – but then Calhoun turned to look in County Executive Matt Meyer’s direction, and said “I don’t mean JewJew like Jewish or like Jews, I mean like good luck.” County Executive Meyer is Jewish.
Two sources confirmed these remarks and said that the “JuJu/JewJew” explanation went on uncomfortably long.
Further, Mr. Calhoun made some additional inappropriate or uncomfortable remarks, like he and his partner being so close that they were considered the first homosexual couple in the department, and comments about not sleeping with your partner’s wife, and so on. Sources say that Mr. Calhoun did not appear drunk before, during or after his remarks.
Now some may chalk this kind of inappropriate and perhaps bigoted remarks up to being a joke. Inappropriate, yes, but not malicious. Perhaps, some might say, when Calhoun said JuJu and then realized he was looking noticeably in Meyer’s direction, and put two and two together, he had to offer his explanation to disabuse those who might think it was intentional. But I am going to disabuse you of that disabuse. There is simply too much history here between Calhoun and the FOP and Mr. Meyer, and between the FOP and a diverse society in general, for this to have been a mistake or unintentional or “just a joke.”
First, the history with Matt Meyer. For those that don’t know, FOP Lodge 5 represents the New Castle County Police Department. County Executive Meyer very publicly and proudly supports Black Lives Matter. The FOP Lodge 5 does not.
Second, the FOP demanded enormous police officer pay increases from Meyer, including raises of up to 20% but only for senior officials already making 6-digit salaries. When Meyer responded that the county could not afford that, they demanded that he cut library funding in order to pay police officers more. Meyer wanted to keep library funding the way it was, so he told them no.
Third, Meyer has been outspoken about changing Delaware’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, which keeps police misconduct in Delaware a secret. The FOP actually wrote that law back in 1985, and they adamantly want to keep it just the way it is and are furious that people like Meyer want to change it. Because of this law, the public has no idea how many police officers in Delaware have been accused of brutality and excessive force. There could be Derek Chauvins among us, violent officers policing the streets of Delaware, and we would have no idea about it.
Indeed, when Meyer released the body cam footage of the officer-involved shooting death of 30-year-old Lymond Moses in January, the State FOP and FOP Lodge 5 were not pleased and said so:
They enthusiastically support Trump. They endorsed him and they’ve made numerous posts adoring him and fawning over him, as well as criticizing impeachment proceedings against him. Meanwhile, they’ve bashed Democrats like President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. Indeed, Calhoun, in a room full of Democratic elected officials on Friday night that were inexplicably honoring him, said something to the affect of 2024 can’t come soon fast enough and that it (referring to Biden) will be over soon and Trump would be back.
They absolutely hate Black Lives Matter. FOP Lodge 5 shared an article exposing “the myths of Black Lives Matter”, as well as another post that called peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters a “pack of rabid animals.”
They also made several posts that furiously protested the firing of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who murdered Eric Garner. Apparently, they believe that officers who suffocate unarmed black men should be able to keep their jobs.
The FOP’s support for police officer violence and shielding bad officers has had clearly fatal consequences. In 2013, Dover PD officer Thomas Webster was caught on camera viciously kicking an unarmed black man in the face and breaking his jaw while he defenselessly laid face down on the ground.
Calhoun, the President of the State FOP at the time, rushed to the officer’s defense and fiercely opposed attempts to discipline or prosecute him. And instead of ending up in prison where he belonged, Officer Webster got a new job with a police agency in Maryland. And within a year on the job, Webster ended up involved in the killing a 19 year-old black man, whom he and three other officers suffocated to death, much in the same way that George Floyd was later suffocated in Minnesota.
More recently, the FOP has supported a violent police response to the George Floyd protests. On June 10, a group held a peaceful protest involving nonviolent civil disobedience in Dover. The Dover Police officers on the scene responded by confronting protestors, escalating tensions, throwing protestors to the ground, roughing them up, injuring them, arresting them, and detaining them while denying them due process rights.
In response, the Governor and Attorney General offered some very restrained and sensible criticism of the Dover PD’s actions. In reaction to these mild critiques, the FOP blew up and posted a furious letter on Facebook, declaring that “Law enforcement is under attack” and that the Governor and the Attorney General “stand against us today because we wear the badge.”
Given all this history, I feel there can be no benefit of the doubt given to Calhoun or the FOP.
“I don’t mean JewJew like Jewish or like Jews.”
This was not a joke. It was a micro-aggression. A little side attack on a minority so as to put him in his place. To make Meyer feel small, in a room where he knew he already had some, shall we say, adversaries.
To the broader societal point, with the Derek Chauvin trial going on in Minnesota, when some police officers act this way, making “jokes” about minorities, whether they be Jewish people or African Americans, and then quickly defend themselves by saying “Hey, I’m not politically correct,” your every day good police officer should take offense. Why? Because these jokes damage all police officers, good and bad. Because in the public’s mind, these jokes, these micro-aggressions, remove the benefit of the doubt that we usually grant to the police. Jokes are a good window into a person’s real thinking and real biases.