In September 2017, Geneva Police Officer Todd Yancey was suspended with pay, and an internal investigation was launched, after he was discovered to have posted several racist images on his Facebook page. The Community Compact called for a “thorough and swift” investigation, and the City Manager promised that the situation would be handled “effectively” and “in a timely manner.”
The GPD, Community Compact, City Council, and City Manager have not issued any public statements about the Yancey situation in over two years, since the internal investigation began.
But in the spring of 2019, Yancey was quietly removed from the department roster.
No announcement was made, by any city officials or community leaders, regarding the officer’s exit or any other details related to the case.
Instead, Yancey’s name was simply removed from the roster and the Police Department, Community Compact and City Manager went on with their lives as if the incident never even happened.
And Yancey, once again a private citizen, posted a new image to his Facebook page that echoed the same racist images which prompted his suspension and an internal investigation more than 18 months prior.
When Asked, GPD Says Nothing, Gerling Says A Little
When contacted by Geneva Believer in August and asked for information about Yancey’s departure, GPD Chief Mike Passalacqua and Lt. Matt Valenti did not respond, but City Manager Sage Gerling said that Yancey was “no longer an employee of the City of Geneva.” Gerling did not provide any further details.
Although New York State Civil Rights Law 50-a prevents the release of specific details surrounding internal investigations into officer misconduct, there is no law preventing city officials from issuing a simple press release announcing an officer’s departure, especially in a high-profile case such as this one.
The failed Community Compact, which received $15,000 in taxpayer money in 2019 to further their “efforts” to improve police and community relations, has made no public statement about the Yancey situation since September 2017.
Although Passalacqua has repeatedly cited “transparency” as one of the hallmarks of his leadership, the Chief has, once again, left the community in the dark, offering no public updates about an officer under investigation and suspension for spreading racist images on social media.
And when that officer finally left his job, Passalacqua did not even acknowledge it.
When Did Yancey Leave?
Yancey’s removal from the roster was first noted by Geneva Believer on August 11, 2019. The last archived online version of the Geneva Police Department roster with Yancey’s name was archived on February 16, 2019.
Therefore, the officer’s employment ended sometime between February and August of 2019.
There are two publicly-available pieces of information that might help narrow the potential time frame for when Yancey left the department.
The first City Council Executive Session of 2019 took place on April 10th at 5:00pm to “discuss matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation and to conduct Hiring Assistance Board Interviews.”
There were no other Executive Sessions conducted between February and August 2019.
If the Yancey situation was discussed during the April Executive Session, it could be assumed that his employment came to an end not long after, in April or May.
Back On Social Media And Posting Confederate Flag Again
On his own Facebook page, Yancey provided another possible indication of when he left the Geneva Police Department.
On May 2 2019, Yancey updated the profile photo on his personal Facebook page, posting a cropped image of an early version of the Confederate Flag, known as “the first national flag of the Confederate States of America.”
The confederate flag went through many changes between approximately 1861 and 1865. The version above, posted by Yancey in May 2019, eventually evolved into what is widely known today as “the Confederate Flag.”
As readers may recall, Yancey posted photos of himself wearing a Confederate Flag bandanna on his head and face in 2012.
He later posted a confederate flag image as his profile photo on July 1 2015, one day after national media was awash with the news that the Ku Klux Klan had been approved to hold a rally at the statehouse in Columbia, SC to protest the removal of the Confederate Flag.
It’s highly improbable that Yancey would have posted a lesser-known, cropped version of the Confederate Flag on social media in May of 2019, while under investigation for posting racist images including the Confederate Flag on social media, unless the internal investigation had concluded and he was no longer a GPD officer.
One might have hoped that lessons would be learned after this ugly, public chapter in the history of policing in Geneva. Perhaps Yancey would have learned something about racism, and the Compact, GPD and City Manager would have learned something about building public trust and transparency.
Instead, by not telling the public about the departure of Yancey, the City Manager, GPD and Compact have shown they have learned nothing, and instead have created an even deeper level of distrust between the Geneva Community and the police department.