race relations

Mayor Says Rachel Dolezal Must Resign From Police Commission; She Refuses

NAACP Leader Racial Questions
Rachel Dolezal in 2009. Photo: Nicholas K. Geranios/AP/Corbis

If there’s ever some kind of cataclysmic event that deletes everything on the internet, now we know that we can turn to Rachel Dolezal to help repopulate the web with controversial stories. A day after Dolezal offered several lengthy and contradictory explanations of her racial identity, the focus shifted to legal issues and her behavior while serving on a volunteer police oversight commission (as well as more tawdry matters).

According to the AP, Dolezal’s race came up in court more than a decade ago when she unsuccessfully sued Howard University, alleging that she was denied a teaching position because she’s white. Lawyers suggested that she tried to make the school think she was African American when she described her family as “transracial” in her admissions essay, writing, “at the early age of three I showed an awareness of the richness and beauty of dark skin when I said, `Mama, all people are beautiful but black people are so beautiful.’”

When asked about her race during her deposition, Dolezal said, “if you have to choose to describe yourself and you’re able to give terms like a fraction or whatever but an overall picture, I consider myself to be Caucasian biologically.” On Tuesday, Dolezal denied that she’s claimed to be transracial and said she identifies as black.

Dolezal has already stepped down as head of the Spokane branch of the NAACP, and city officials are investigating whether she violated ethics rules when she filled out her application to serve on the Police Ombudsman Commission. On Wednesday, Spokane’s mayor called for her resignation from the volunteer position. An investigation by an independent law firm, prompted by a whistle-blower, found that Dolezal, along with commission members Kevin Berkompas and Adrian Dominguez, revealed confidential information and engaged in “behavioral misconduct during interactions with City employees,” according to KREM. The report concluded that they inappropriately revealed the names of people involved in police misconduct investigations, changed official meeting minutes, and “engaged in conduct that humiliated, insulted or degraded” the city worker who filed the suit.

The report describes Dolezal’s actions as “hostile and accusatory” in a meeting about police body-camera training, alleging that when she was told all the suspects in the training scenarios were white, “she turned her body away from the officers and busied herself with her cellphone.” It also claims that she showed bias against police by protesting police brutality as part of the NAACP while serving on the commission.

We are deeply disturbed by the facts contained in the report of findings from the independent investigator,” Spokane mayor David Condon and Council president Ben Stuckart said in a statement. “The conduct is unacceptable and falls far short of the community’s expectations of volunteers who sit on City boards and commissions.”

This time Dolezal refused to back down. “I will not resign. I have done nothing wrong and neither has Adrian Dominguez or Kevin Berkompass,” she said, adding. “The work is tough, and certainly there is a degree of expected push-back from the institution, but the level of harassment and sabotage by city government is completely undeserved and inappropriate.”

Dolezal Refuses to Resign From Commission