Two years ago, a police officer posted a racist meme on his Facebook page. This year, he was made chief of police, and the residents of a small Louisiana town largely have zero problems with that.
Wayne Welsh was assistant police chief of the Estherwood Police Department in Estherwood, Louisiana, when he shared the racist image to his Facebook page in July 2017.
“When your daughters first crush is a little negro boy,” read the meme of a white mother shoving her white daughter’s face underwater in a bathtub.
The post initially led Welsh to consider resigning, although he told News 15 at the time he didn’t feel he needed to.
“To me, I’m not racist and I knew it wasn’t, he said. “It was a picture that everybody shared and you can get on anybody and still see it. It’s still there, but I was wrong for sharing it for being a police officer.”
The former assistant police chief also issued an apology on Facebook writing, “I posted something on Facebook that made a lot of people mad. Well, I’m sorry for what happened. Ya have a blessed day.”
Welsh ultimately got suspended without pay for two weeks. After continuing to serve in the department, in November 2018 he ran unopposed for the position formerly held by now-resigned Estherwood Police Chief Ernest Villejoin. That came after he served as the interim chief that year.
In February of this year, Welsh was sworn in as chief of police.
“What happen(ed) two years ago is behind me and my punishment was done to me and now I’m moving forward with my life and as the new chief of police,” he said to CNN in a text message on April 3.
According to some residents of the predominantly white 900-person town, Welsh’s meme was no issue and they welcome his new role.
“It doesn’t matter because at the end of the day, he’s still here to do his job and he does it to the fullest and he would give you the shirt off his back whether you are black, white, Mexican, Asian,” 20-year-old Tyler Lantier, who is white, said to the network. He added Welsh has been doing a good job thus far.
Lantier, who said the meme was blown “out of proportion” at the time, also denied the town was racist. Still, he admitted to saying the n-word “often, but I don’t use it as racist.”
The town’s mayor, Donald Popp, who was not serving in the position at the time Welsh posted the meme, agreed that the post was a big misunderstanding. He thinks it is now irrelevant.
“He was disciplined, he was dealt with and then he was re-elected,” he told CNN. “As the new mayor, I don’t see any problems or foresee any future problems with him.”
Fearing retaliation, six of the black residents that make up less than 5 people of Estherwood’s population did not want to comment on camera to CNN about Welsh’s new position. However, Michael McClanahan, president of the Louisiana NAACP, has made his thoughts known.
“What I take from all of this is when I go through that little town, I better be doing five miles below the speed limit, and I better go through there in the daytime and not darkness,” McClanahan told NOLA.com in March. “And tell all my family the same. Don’t stop at no store, just go through there and keep going.”