A Massachusetts police officer was ordered to remove a Confederate flag from inside his garage after complaints from neighbors.
Sgt. Dan McCarthy, a veteran officer and commander of Greenfield's detective bureau, had the controversial flag hanging from a back wall in the garage, but the standard was visible to passersby when the garage door was open. That's when neighbors Rod and Lindel Hart complained, saying their 10-year-old adopted son — who is black — was uncomfortable after seeing the flag.
"Now I have no way to convince my 10-year-old son that his neighbor is not a racist, redneck cop," Rod told MassLive.com, after posting an image of McCarthy's flag on Facebook.
The resulting controversy on social media prompted Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin to visit the Harts and let young Hugh know "that he is committed to making Greenfield safe for all," Rod wrote in a Facebook post.
Posts about the local controversy have triggered thousands of comments from community members, with some arguing McCarthy should be fired, while others say he should not be disciplined for what he does on his own time. Compounding the problem is the fact that McCarthy is the department's liaison to the town Human Rights Commission, a position that could be compromised by the perception that the officer has Confederate sympathies.
Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh told central Massachusetts newspaper The Recorder that his department's code of conduct requires officers to refrain from any behavior that could reflect poorly on the department. After Haigh and the mayor asked McCarthy to remove the Confederate flag, the veteran officer complied, the chief said.
Greenfield is a town of more than 17,000 about 100 miles west of Boston.
Haigh said he's spoken to McCarthy at length about the perception problem with displaying such a controversial symbol, and said he plans to address the issue in future department training sessions.
“We have to remember this happened and that there are different views, but at the end of the day, police officers have to maintain public trust, and that’s not the worst thing in the world,” Haigh told The Recorder. “Unfortunately, things like this shed a bad light on police and then we lose that trust. That’s not good.”