Officials launch probe into social media posts allegedly made by police chief's daughter

City officials defended the chief in their joint statement Friday night


Zach Murdock
Hartford Courant

NAUGATUCK, Conn. — Naugatuck police and school officials are investigating after racist social media messages apparently shared by Police Chief Steven Hunt’s teen daughter were made public Friday.

City and police leaders condemned the posts in a joint statement issued Friday night and pledged to hire an independent investigator to review the incident in addition to internal police and school board investigations.

“The comments attributed to a member of Police Chief Steven Hunt’s family are disgusting and totally inappropriate,” began the joint statement, signed by Mayor Pete Hess, Police Commission Chairman Ralph Roper Jr. and Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister.

“In Naugatuck and at the Police Department, we condemn any act of racism or bigotry, in any form at any time,” the statement continued. “Racism and bigotry are totally inconsistent with our values and who we are as a Town and a Police Department. We are currently gathering information internally and are also in the process of bringing in assistance from the outside to conduct a comprehensive and independent investigation.”

The racist posts were apparently first made by Hunt’s teenage daughter in a series of Snapchat messages that were captured by screenshot and were shared widely online by local activists and the Greater Waterbury NAACP on Friday afternoon.

The messages include multiple references to committing violence against Black people and repeatedly use a racial slur, the screenshots show. Although they are undated, one message makes reference to Hunt’s appointment as chief, which happened in early 2019.

“My dad is now officially police chief so that means he’s more advanced in shooting black people then (sic) he just was a couple minutes ago,” the text in one message reads.

The NAACP and local activists decried the messages and the NAACP said it is communicating with the police department about the “disturbing situation.” Jendaya Bell, who helped organize protests for racial justice in Naugatuck last summer, called on Hunt to resign and for city officials to directly confront racism in the community.

“No ‘meeting’ or performative ‘diversity committee’ will attack the racism embedded in this town head on,” Bell wrote in a Facebook post sharing the screenshots. “If you stand for what you claim to, call for the resignation. Demand accountability. If there is no room in Naugatuck for racism and white supremacy, prove it.”

City officials defended the chief and his wife Johnna Hunt, an assistant principal at Naugatuck High School, in their joint statement Friday night.

“These comments are not consistent with Police Chief Hunt’s character and leadership of the department as well as the values he instilled in our Police Department,” the statement said. “Also, Mrs. Johnna Hunt has always been a model citizen and a great example for the youth of the community.”

Both the city and board of education will conduct separate investigations into the incident, in addition to an independent investigation, but it was not immediately clear Friday night whether either Hunt would be placed on leave from their jobs during those reviews.

“We are also extremely proud of our Police Department for the unbiased manner in which they conduct their duties every day,” city officials’ joint statement concluded. “Naugatuck is a community that values inclusiveness and diversity. Naugatuck welcomes everyone.”

(c)2021 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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