This article originally appeared at Eoin Higgins’ newsletter, The Flashpoint.

“I couldn’t resist!!!”

That’s the last line of a particularly racist email sent by Leyden, Massachusetts Police Chief Daniel Galvis to town officials and fellow officers on March 8, 2016.

The email, a chain forward called “FW: How Is Tarzan Doing?” ends with the noble savage telling a nameless third party that a chimpanzee named “Cheetah” got plastic surgery, married a lawyer, and lives in the White House. A photo of a chimp and a photo of Michelle Obama are then juxtaposed as the punchline.

The email was shared with the public during a Select Board hearing on September 7 on whether or not to reappoint Sgt. Tina Riddell. The hearing, which ended with Riddell not being reinstated despite significant public support, hinged on her treatment by Galvis and the general culture in the small town’s police department.

Other emails from Galvis, some of which are included at the bottom of this article, make similarly crude and racist jokes—and were sent to the very members of town government who are now being asked to hold the chief accountable.

“There’s a lot more under the surface”

The Select Board’s staunch support of Galvis has residents in this small western Massachusetts town frustrated.

According to the Greenfield Recorder:

During the Sept. 7 meeting, Select Board member Bill Glabach described the use of the emails in Riddell’s argument as a “character assassination” and questioned their relevance to the current events. Select Board member Jeff Neipp also interjected, saying that “Galvis is not on trial.”

Erica Jensen, the board’s newest member—and who was not a recipient to the emails from 2015 and 2016—told me that the revelations of the emails have led to “a call to action for a number of people in town that Galvis should either be forced to resign, asked to resign, or replaced, or fired.”

“I think that there’s a lot more under the surface,” she added.

The Recorder’s reporting bears that out.

When asked if the jokes were something he realized now were inappropriate and would not be sent today, Galvis said the emails were from “way before all this changed,” referring to the social climate and attention on policing race relations and the Black Lives Matter movement.

While the emails are only as recent as 2016, Riddell alleges recent behaviors emphasized her concern. While attending training at a firing range with other officers on Nov. 21, 2020, Riddell claims Galvis referenced a silhouette target down-range and asked “What is this, an unarmed Black guy?”

Multiple attempts to reach Galvis, through phone calls and emails, went unanswered. But in comment to the Recorder earlier this month, he said that the emails were sent “way before all this changed,” referring to the Black Lives Matter protests from 2020 over the death of George Floyd. At that time, Galvis said that Floyd deserved some of the blame for his own murder.

Select Board Chair was a recipient of five emails

Select Board Chair Neipp, a recipient of five of the seven publicly revealed emails and who defended Galvis during a recent meeting, hung up on me when I finally got through to him on Friday.

One email Neipp was a recipient of was a grotesquely racist anti-Muslim tirade from December 6, 2015. The chair has denied seeing any of the offensive emails addressed to him.

Sgt. Riddell’s attorney, Michael McHale, told the board that whether or not they had read the emails at the time, the invective in them should be enough to spur action now.

“The contents of the emails are such that even though the most recent is from 2016, it gives me pause,” McHale said. “These alone should disqualify Galvis from being the police chief of any department.”

That Neipp still has not seen the emails is, at best, a dubious claim, Jensen told me.

“It’s an unusual thing to say that you didn’t read very particular emails that came from the official police department email,” Jensen said. “It would be unusual not to read something that came from the chief of police.”

“It’s unacceptable”

Leyden resident Sara Seinberg brought a petition to the next Select Board meeting on September 27 demanding Galvis resign immediately or be removed. The chief’s position is untenable, the petition said, because “unbiased application of the law is the primary function of law enforcement… this function has been irrevocably corrupted.”

“We all know that no institution in the United States, public or private, would tolerate this racist content being shared through official communications without the swiftest and most severe consequences,” the petition added.

According to Seinberg, Galvis’s racism is indicative of “the sickness of our nation.”

“We cannot let these things just get swept under the rug,” Seinberg told me. “It’s unacceptable.”

Some of the emails are reproduced below.

September 3, 2015. Sent to Neipp as well as other town officials, including Galvis’s wife Gilda, a captain in the police department.

December 6, 2015. Sent to Neipp as well as other town officials, including Galvis’s wife Gilda, a captain in the police department.

March 30, 2016. Sent to town officials, including Galvis’s wife Gilda, a captain in the police department.

March 8, 2016. Sent to town officials, including Galvis’s wife Gilda, a captain in the police department.

Eoin Higgins

Eoin Higgins

Eoin Higgins is a journalist from western Massachusetts. Subscribe to his newsletter, The Flashpoint.