Video has surfaced showing a St. Louis County, Mo., police officer engaging in an hour-long lecture in which he rails against "our undocumented president," the "black-robed perverts" of the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. laws that promote equality, prompting the police chief to put him on administrative leave.
Officer Dan Page gained notoriety last Monday after shoving CNN host Don Lemon during live coverage from Ferguson, Mo., where protests erupted after police fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. On Friday, CNN telephoned the St. Louis County Police Department to say the news organization had obtained a tape of Page speaking to an organization called the Oath Keepers, which describes itself as a group of current and former law enforcement and military personnel compelled to disobey rules that members believe violate the Constitution.
In the tape, Page, a retired Army sergeant major, boasts of having killed and says, "We have no business passing hate-crime laws — none — because we're setting aside a group of people special."
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told USA TODAY in a telephone interview Friday that once he learned of the tape, sought it out and viewed it himself, he immediately placed Page on administrative leave.
"I don't legally have the authority to fire an individual like that," Belmar said. "I will tell you that if he were a probationary officer, he would not (have the latitude of an investigation) and I would have fired him an hour and a half ago."
There will be an internal affairs investigation and a psychological review and then "we will go from there," Belmar said.
Contact information for Page could not be found online and he could not be reached.
Belmar said Page is a 35-year police department veteran who joined the agency in 1979. He described Page's career as "unremarkable," with no great accolades or noticeable marks on his record. He also said Page has spent nine of the last 12 to 15 years being deployed as a member of the Army.
"We do not require a psych when our soldiers come back to us, but I know there is a procedure for the Army," Belmar said.
In the video, Page reads from the Declaration of Independence and notes that Americans are "created equal" but adds, "that does not mean Affirmative Action. That means we're all equal."
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Belmar said the points on the tape that prompted him to take administrative action were the segments in which Page spoke about killing.
"I joined this police department 28 years ago because it was a professional agency and it remains so today," Belmar said. "We cannot have these kinds of comments and behavior."
Regarding the situation in Ferguson, Belmar said he is "optimistic" for a quiet weekend leading up to Michael Brown's funeral on Monday. He also said his eyes have been opened as to how police and communities should relate.
"We are pretty much relaxing our posture in as much as we can in different ways, even to include how we deploy," Belmar said, adding that he wants his officers "leaning up on a storefront talking about Cardinal baseball."