Richmond Police Officer Resigns Over Ku Klux Klan Costume-Party Photos

Karl Fischer, West County Times (Richmond, Calif.), Nov. 5

A Richmond police officer resigned Wednesday after the department received photos of him posing at a Halloween costume party with someone dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member.

A reader forwarded two photos to the Times in an e-mail Tuesday morning, both apparently depicting costume-clad people at a Halloween party. A man identified by multiple sources as Richmond police Officer Ben Murdoch appears in both photos, dressed as a rock star.

Another, unidentified man also appears in the photos, dressed in the white sheet and conical white hat of the Ku Klux Klan. In both photos, those depicted are raising their hands in an apparent mock-Nazi salute.

Police Chief Chris Magnus said he could not comment, other than to confirm that he placed Murdoch on paid leave Tuesday afternoon, when he learned of the pictures, and that Murdoch and the city parted ways Wednesday.

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Sorry enough, Rains added, that he resigned his job during an internal-affairs interview Wednesday morning. Rains said Murdoch and his roommates had a Halloween costume party Saturday night. His friend who wore the KKK costume, a Latino, evoked roars of laughter from the tight-knit group because he is an outspoken liberal and opponent of racism, Rains said.

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Racial tension and mistrust mark the length of the Richmond Police Department’s modern history. City police received national attention during the 1980s for civil rights lawsuits over the police shootings of two black men that resulted in an epic financial settlement and mandated safeguards against racism and civil rights abuses, including the formation of the Richmond Police Commission.

In 2006, several members of the department’s command staff, all black, sued the city with accusations of racist treatment at the hands of Magnus and former Deputy Chief Lori Ritter. Both have denied the claims, and one of the plaintiffs dropped out of the suit this year. The case remains unresolved in Contra Costa Superior Court.

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