A Ferguson, Missouri, police officer has been placed on unpaid leave after calling a memorial for Michael Brown "trash," then misleading his superiors about the statement.
Officer Timothy Zoll made the comment Friday when The Washington Post asked about the destruction of an improvised-but-longstanding memorial in the street where Michael Brown died.
"I don't know that a crime has occurred," Zoll told the Post. "But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?"
The department subsequently investigated the comment, and during the investigation Zoll admitted "that he misled his superiors when asked about the contents of the interview," according to a statement BuzzFeed News received Saturday from the city of Ferguson.
Zoll has now been placed on unpaid leave while "disciplinary proceedings" begin, the statement added. It did not elaborate what might happen to Zoll or the potential duration of his leave.
The statement goes on to say that Zoll's remarks "do not reflect the feelings of the Ferguson Police Department and are in direct contradiction to the efforts of city officials to relocate the memorial to a more secure location." It also states that "even after the officer's initial denial of his statement, the police chief continued the investigation until the truth was discovered."
The memorial sprang up shortly after Michael Brown was shot on Aug. 9, and has been a focal point for both mourners and rallies ever since.
People at the scene of the memorial tweeted early Friday morning that it was destroyed when someone drove over it.
However, within hours the memorial had been rebuilt.
This is the full statement from Ferguson on Zoll's comments:
Earlier this week, the Public Information Officer for the City of Ferguson Police Department responded to an inquiry from a Washington Post reporter regarding the destruction of the Michael Brown memorial.
Upon being confronted with the results of the Ferguson Police Department's investigation regarding the remarks that were attributed to the Public Information Officer, the officer admitted to Department investigators that he did in fact make the remarks attributed to him, and that he misled his superiors when asked about the contents of the interview. The officer has been placed on unpaid leave, effective immediately, while disciplinary proceedings begin.
The City of Ferguson wants to emphasize that negative remarks about the Michael Brown memorial do not reflect the feelings of the Ferguson Police Department and are in direct contradiction to the efforts of City officials to relocate the memorial to a more secure location.
The Ferguson Police Department also wants to note that even after the officer's initial denial of his statement; the Police Chief continued the investigation until the truth was discovered.
The City of Ferguson and the Ferguson Police Department in particular, are focused on creating a trusting relationship with the entire community and taking impactful steps to improve the effectiveness of the department.
Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jim Dalrymple II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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