KPD officer apologizes for Halloween blackface incident

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the makeup of the Knoxville City Council. Three of the nine council members are women of color. Hard Knox Wire regrets the error.

By Cliff Hightower, Hard Knox Wire

A Knoxville police officer issued an apology Wednesday after an investigation was launched into him and another Knoxville police officer regarding a blackface incident on Halloween.

KPD Officers Todd McFaun and Leah Miller, his fiancé, are under an internal affairs investigation due to the incident, officials said.

McFaun said Wednesday the incident was bad judgment on his part.

“In no way do I, or anyone in my family, condone racism or consider ourselves racist,” McFaun said in a statement provided by his attorney Don Bosch. “That said, I now understand how some might have found the costumes offensive. Please know that for any pain I have caused, I sincerely apologize.”

The incident was put to light during a City Council meeting Tuesday night when Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon condemned the action, showing a photo of McFaun, Miller and two children with one dressed in blackface.

The Halloween costumes were supposed to resemble the movie “Forrest Gump” with characters from the movie.

One child was dressed as “Bubba,” a black character, and another as “Lieutenant Dan,” while McFaun was dressed as Forrest and Miller dressed as Jenny.

“Within the last month, my children, for the first time, watched the movie, ‘Forrest Gump.’As many people have before, they immediately fell in love with the movie,” McFaun said. “They decided that it would be fun to dress up as a family like the heroes in the movie. 

In hindsight, I understand that the depiction of the character Bubba Gump was insensitive. In no way do I, or anyone in my family, condone racism or consider ourselves racist.”

McFaun said he was an eight year-Army Reserve veteran and a nine-year veteran of the KPD. He said it has led to some self-reflection.

“I have spoken candidly with my children and fiancé, and all of us have learned and grown from this experience,” he said. “Again, I wish to offer my apologies to the community and the Knoxville Police Department, both of which I cherish deeply.” 

KPD officials said they could not give a time when the Internal Affairs investigation would be complete.

Kincannon issued a statement about the incident.

“I strongly condemn the use of black-face. It’s not a joke – it’s racist, offensive, and inappropriate,” she said. “Police Chief Eve Thomas has initiated an Internal Affairs Unit investigation into the officers in question. It is underway and will proceed as expeditiously as possible. Appropriate action will be taken based on its findings, and we will share those findings publicly when complete.”

Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas said she was aware of the post of the blackface on social media over the weekend and will wait for the completion of the Internal Affairs investigation.

“Once that investigation is complete, a determination will be made regarding an appropriate course of action,” she said. “The KPD cannot comment any further on pending IAU investigations.”

Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie also issued a statement.

“The use of black-face is offensive and unacceptable behavior,” she said. “I am glad that Mayor Kincannon and Chief Thomas are taking this seriously, and I look forward to hearing the findings of the investigation.”