Promotions OK’d for Falls officers photographed with co-worker in blackface

Sean McDonnell
Akron Beacon Journal
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Two Cuyahoga Falls officers will receive promotions that were put on hold after an old photo resurfaced of them with a third officer who was wearing blackface.

On July 9, a photo from 2008 resurfaced of three Cuyahoga Falls officers dressed as characters from the 1980s TV show “The A-Team.” It was sent to media outlets across the region by an unnamed person upset about the promotions.

Police Chief Jack Davis said in a statement he received the photo at about the same time, and immediately launched an investigation.

In the photo, Detective Brandon Good is dressed as Mr. T’s character B.A. Baracus wearing blackface.

Two other officers, Lt. Chris Norfolk and Sgt. Dan Quior, are in the photo. Norfolk is dressed as John “Hannibal” Smith and Quior as Howling Mad Murdock.

Davis said the department conducted a thorough investigation, which included looking through the personnel files of each officer.

“After a thorough review of each of their personnel files, it was found that the officers have served the Cuyahoga Falls community with exemplary records with no past history or patterns of racist behavior,” Davis said in a statement. “It is very important to note, this does not excuse the behavior that was displayed in the Halloween photo from 2008. We will be utilizing this opportunity to address this past situation while taking the corrective action of further educating and training our department to know and do better as we can only move forward from this.”

Norfolk’s promotion to captain and Quior’s to lieutenant will precede at a yet to be determined date, officials said.

Judi Hill, president of the Akron NAACP, said the police department reached out to her about the photo and about establishing a connection and moving forward.

Hill said she is much more worried about “moving the needle forward” and much less worried about single incidents. She said the department was receptive to that.

“I’m actually looking forward to working with them,” Hill said. “They seem very willing to look at the bigger picture.”

According to an investigation report released to the Beacon Journal, each officer was interviewed and said the photo was taken at a Halloween party in 2008. The photo is believed to have been posted on Facebook soon after the party.

Good said the B.A. Baracus costume was completely put together by him, including the costume paint, jewelry and clothes.

According to the investigation, the officers had planned together to dress up as the “A-Team.” All three said they did not intend for it to be offensive, and that they understand today that this kind of costume would be unacceptable.

The officers released a joint statement on the issue.

“In 2008, we attended a private Halloween party dressed as the 80’s television characters the A-Team, which we acknowledge was insensitive,” the statement said. “Over the past twelve years, we have attended many diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings and have been learning to be more culturally sensitive. We remain dedicated to serving with respect and dignity and are committed to doing the work necessary to build stronger relationships in our community as we move forward.”

Capt. Todd Shafer, who conducted the investigation, concluded it by saying he believed the officers involved had no ill intentions.

“I firmly believe that these men dressed as characters of a show that they admired growing up,” Shafer said in the investigation report. “They all acknowledge that they would not consider that costume today. But in 2008, there was no thought of this being a racial topic versus honoring an iconic show and an iconic actor.”

The report found no rules or regulations broken in the incident.

The Beacon Journal obtained personnel files of each of the three officers.

Good, who was hired in 2004, has received commendations for work as both a patrol officer and as a detective, as well as compliments from the community, according to his personnel file. No disciplinary actions or violations were found.

Norfolk was hired in 2001 and has also received positive comments from citizens and commendations. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2018.

The sole disciplinary action in Norfolk’s file involved a 2006 crash between him and another officer, who were both responding to a call of an officer being attacked. He received a one-day suspension.

Quior was hired in 2001 and was promoted to sergeant in 2019. He has commendations for his work as a detective and was named top cop of the month twice by the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office. He has received similar patrolman of the month awards from the department.

His file contained two written reprimands — one in 2009 for changing another officer’s desktop background as a joke and the other in 2010 which he needed to improve how he filled out reports and daily logs.

Mayor Don Walters issued a statement apologizing for any offense caused by the incident, and praising the investigation.

“This matter has been taken very seriously and I am pleased with how quickly Chief Davis took action to take a deep dive into when and where this took place,” the mayor said in the statement. “I firmly stand behind his investigation and its outcome. I apologize for any offense this incident has caused. I want everyone to feel and know that they are welcome and respected in Cuyahoga Falls.”

Reach Sean McDonnell at 330-996-3186 or smcdonnell@thebeaconjournal.com