An Austin Police Department (APD) officer has been suspended for 10 days for using a harmful stereotype to describe a #BlackLivesMatter protester in May, according to a disciplinary memo from APD Chief Brian Manley.
Officer Ryan Seweryn, who will serve his suspension until Dec. 5, was disciplined after an internal investigation found he referred to a protester as “that gay dude with the short shorts in the black shirt,” while describing the person to fellow officers. Seweryn began serving his suspension on Nov. 26 at the conclusion of the investigation.
An Austin officer has been suspended for 10 days for referring to a protestor as “that gay dude with the short shorts.” When investigators asked Officer Ryan Seweryn to elaborate he said, “If there is a man in feminine clothing I would describe that individual as gay.” pic.twitter.com/xUEP00G8sQ
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) November 30, 2020
Seweryn’s body-worn camera captured his description of the protester, according to the memo. When interviewed by internal affairs personnel, Seweryn admitted to describing the protester that way and said, “if there was a male in feminine clothing I would describe that individual as gay … in order for my fellow officers to identify the individual.”
Officer Seweryn also told the internal affairs investigator that he doesn’t assume a person’s sexual orientation based on how they dress, but rather he described the person that way because “the individual’s clothing was consistent with the clothing styles he believed people wore at Gay Pride parades.”
When the investigator asked Officer Seweryn if he met the person he was referring to on the night in question, the officer replied, “No, sir.”
The memo says during the investigation, Officer Seweryn repeatedly said he wasn’t assuming the person’s sexual orientation by the way they dressed, but rather it was a “description of the clothing of the person, not a physical description of the person themselves.”
Officer Seweryn said he has never used the term “the straight dude” when describing a subject, the memo says.
The investigator asked if the APD Training Academy teaches cadets to use the term “gay” as a descriptor, to which the officer replied, “not as a description, no sir.”
He also admitted he wouldn’t feel comfortable using that kind of descriptor over the radio.
The memo goes on to say, “in spite of his unprofessional and inappropriate comment, Officer Seweryn concluded his internal affairs interview by stating that he did not feel like he violated APD General Orders.”
The memo notes that this is Seweryn’s second 10-day suspension since September. He was disciplined for sending a meme via text message in March that was “inappropriate and disrespectful” to a colleague.
The internal investigation found Officer Seweryn violated the following rules and regulations of the Austin Police Department: Purpose and Scope and Impartial Attitude and Courtesy.
Both violations fall under the purview of the department’s “responsibility to the community” policy, the memo says.