- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2009

ERIE, PA. (AP) - The head of the NAACP says a western Pennsylvania police officer should resign over an Internet video showing him in a bar, apparently intoxicated, joking about a homicide victim.

Erie patrol officer James Cousins II, 40, was suspended for the profanity-laced off-duty rant in which he talks about Rondale Jennings Sr., 31, who died March 28 of a gunshot to the head outside the bar.

On the tape, Cousins says he took a picture because the body was lying below a malt liquor sign that reads “Take it to the head.” He laughs as he recounts seeing the dead man’s leg twitch and the reaction of the victim’s mother as she identifies him.

“I was shocked and disturbed,” Jennings’ mother, Yvette, told CNN on Sunday. “I was distraught. And it just added a whole lot more pain on top of what I was already feeling.”

Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told CNN the officer should resign.

“His job is to inspire trust and to make the people of Erie feel that they will be protected, that their cases will be taken seriously,” Jealous said. “… But there’s officers going on stereotypes. And he is being profane not just with his language but in his actions, not just towards the family but toward the entire community.”

Yvette Jennings said, however, that she was glad that officers had found her son’s killer.

The Rev. Michael T. Williams, president of Erie’s African American Concerned Clergy, called for the officer’s dismissal at a news conference Friday.

“How can a police officer, who is hired to serve and protect the citizens of this community, out of his same mouth, speak words full of mockery and insultation?” Williams said.

Erie Police Chief Steve Franklin said Cousins was apparently drunk, but that an investigation would place his comments in context. Cousins, who was hired in 2004, was suspended with pay from his full-time job with the department Wednesday. The county’s district attorney has called his behavior unacceptable and apologized to the victim’s family.

Cousins, whose number is unlisted, has not responded to messages left by reporters at his home. He also worked part-time as a Girard borough officer before he was suspended without pay by that department last week.


Information from: Erie Times-News, https://www.goerie.com

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