A Tracy Police Department employee was removed from his position after a social media post in which he appeared to advocate violence against a journalist and Black Lives Matter activist.
Chief Sekou Millington confirmed on Friday that the part-time employee no longer works for the department, and the department is working with the FBI, which initiated the investigation through its Long Beach office. Tracy police made contact with the FBI’s Ripon office.
Millington said his department was flooded with about 20 phone calls and 60 Facebook messages on Thursday morning after the publication of a story by Shaun King on Medium. King wrote that a recent series of Facebook comments by law enforcement officers amounted to a death threat against him.
King hosts “The Breakdown with Shaun King” on The North Star, which the website describes as a daily news podcast “where he unpacks the most important stories of injustice, racism and corruption — but also tells you who’s fighting back and how you can support and join them with practical action steps.”
He is also active on Twitter, regularly posting and sharing stories that focus on law enforcement tactics and practices, which have come under increasing scrutiny since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25.
King’s story on Medium on Thursday reports that a private Facebook group for California law enforcement officers included a thread where “members of the group were openly plotting and planning my assassination.”
The thread started with a woman whom King identified as a retired Long Beach police officer, who responded to one of his tweets with the comment: “I think calif needs to start putting together a team of retired military, police and NRA MEMBERS! … These criminals that the Democrats created need to be stopped.”
King posted comments from 11 more people in the group, including “Toss this guy from a helicopter,” “Need a sniper,” “Shaun King needs to be put down.”
The one that got the attention of people who called Tracy police was from Billy Dishman, who posted, “Let’s get it going.…I’m In.”
A Facebook page for Billy Dishman contains only a photo that links to another page in support of law enforcement. It has no other posts, no timeline and no friends listed.
A LinkedIn page for Dishman identifies him as a professional standards officer for the Tracy Police Department since May 2015 and a San Jose Police Department sergeant before that, with more than 25 years with that department.
Tracy police did not identify the employee under investigation, and Millington would not confirm whether Dishman was the employee in question, pending further investigation of the matter. He noted only that the person was a part-time employee and was not a sworn police officer.
Millington added that the investigation, which will involve an independent investigator working with the FBI, will determine whether the former employee will face criminal charges.
“At this point we’re going to confer with the FBI. It’s been referred to them,” Millington said. “This is broader than a local incident. The case spreads down to Southern California and I’m not sure if there are other states involved. There needs to be an assessment of that before we go down that road.”
Millington said that his office doesn’t have much information beyond what has already been spread on social media. He expects that the independent investigator and the FBI will have more information by next week.
He added that his goal as chief is to respond to the situation as quickly and effectively as possible.
“It’s incumbent on me to have a conversation with my department, and just make clear where I stand on this,” Millington said.
Shortly after he started with Tracy Police Department in February, he reissued the department’s code of conduct, including direction on how police employees should conduct themselves on social media, be it city-sponsored or private.
“I’m talking definitely a face-to-face meeting, not only with my command staff but also with my officers and professional staff, boots on the ground,” he said, “just to have a real conversation about the impacts of this, about the challenges we face as a department, an organization, as a culture when we make remarks, and obviously there’s level of blowback and lack of trust that happens when the community gets wind of it.”
The issue comes up as Millington prepares for a virtual town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, titled “A Conversation on Racial Injustice, Policing and Our Youth.”
The city of Tracy will bring together community leaders on Tuesday, June 30, at 6:00 p.m. for the first in a series of virtual town hall meeti…
“I’m perfectly willing to talk about what I can talk about with regards to the investigation, and how we responded, what information we received and what complaints we received,” he said. “The forum allows us to be honest with one another and it allows us to hear the concerns the community has and has expressed over a period of time.”
He added that it’s also his chance to make a strong statement regarding this incident.
“I want people to understand, I want the community to understand, that we don’t tolerate this kind of behavior. We’re in the business of people,” he said. “This is not to excuse or condone anything that happens, but things are going to happen when you’re in the people business. I think the true test is, how do we react to it? How do we address it? Do we fit that national narrative of not caring or protecting that thin blue line?
“I’m about honesty and justice, and I’m hoping that my actions, the actions of this organization, and even that of the city reflects that. I don’t expect that this will be the first and last incident that we have where the department is questioned.”