Officer Suspended for Calling Henry Louis Gates a 'Jungle Monkey'

A Boston police officer apologizes for using the term to describe the Harvard professor.

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BY Corky Siemaszko
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

The Boston cop suspended for calling Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates a "banana-eating jungle monkey" in a mass e-mail was turned in by fellow cops.

The revelation that Officer Justin Barrett's brothers in blue were also revolted by his hateful words came as the police commissioner tried to repair the reputation of Beantown's police department.

"This type of venomous rhetoric is severely damaging," Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis declared Thursday. "We will not allow the unacceptable actions of one member to define who we are."

Davis said he has apologized to Gates on behalf of the department and they are now checking whether Barrett had any run-ins with blacks while on the job.

Barrett is also not getting any love from the local police union, which has denounced his remarks as "offensive and hurtful."

"He's gone," Boston Mayor Tom Menino said of Barrett, who has already been suspended. "G-o-n-e. I don't care, it's like cancer. You don't keep those cancers around."

Barrett, 36, a cop for two years, has also been suspended by the National Guard, where he holds the rank of captain. Earlier, Barrett insisted he was not a racist and "did not mean to offend anyone."

"The words were being used to characterize behavior, not describe anyone," Barrett told WCVB-TV.

Barrett conceded it was a "poor choice of words."

"I didn't mean it in a racist way," he added. "I treat everyone with dignity and respect."

Barrett said he was "just venting" about the July 16 arrest of Gates by a white Cambridge cop that became a national discussion about race when President Obama said the officers acted "stupidly."

"People are making it about race," said Barrett, who vowed to fight any attempt to fire him. "It is not about race."

But it may be about whether Barrett has any sense.

Barrett got into hot water after he fired off the note to his buddies on the force, in the Guard—and, inexplicably, The Boston Globe.

In the email, Barrett called the Globe story "jungle monkey gibberish" and wrote that Gates' "first priority should be to get off the phone and comply with police."

"For if I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a ... jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC deserving of his belligerent non-compliance," Barrett wrote.

OC is pepper spray.

Barrett went on to question Gates' credentials, called him a "God damned fool," and twice challenged the paper to "ax" him what he thinks.

"I am not a racist, but I am prejudice [sic] towards people who are stupid and pretend to stand up and preach for something they claim is freedom," Barrett wrote.