JASPER, Ala. (WBMA) — Four officers in the Jasper Police Department were suspended for making a hand gesture while posing for a photo. Some people claimed the circular gesture was racist, according to the city's mayor, David O'Mary.
The mayor said some have claimed the gesture was meant to express the phrase "white power." Many in Jasper who spoke on camera to ABC 33/40 News see it differently. They say it is the gesture used in the "circle game." Popular among kids, the idea of the game is for the person to trick the other into looking at the circle gesture displayed below their waist.
"It's a kid game. Going around and hitting everybody when you see it," said one man in downtown Jasper immediately after viewing the photo.
The photo was published in the Daily Mountain Eagle last week after an arrest by the department's drug terrorism task force in the Frisco community. The mayor said he organized the photo because he wanted the officers to receive credit for their work. He said he has not spoken to them since to ask what they meant by the gesture. He said it doesn't matter.
"That's contradictory to how we run our city. That's not our mindset. That's not the way we do things and they used poor judgement."
The officers, whose names have not been made public, will be suspended two weeks and lose a week of pay according to O'Mary. He explained part of his decision process,
"We talked to two senior African-American law enforcement officers that are on the City of Jasper's payroll and they think it's fair and that's a pretty good sounding board."