Official: NAACP releases complaint about York-Poquoson Sheriff deputy's Halloween costume

A York-Poquoson Sheriff's deputy is being reassigned from her D.A.R.E. officer role in the school system after a local NAACP issued a complaint stating her Halloween costume was offensive, an official said.

The reassignment follows a York-James City-Williamsburg NAACP branch news release Wednesday. Sheriff J.D. Diggs provided a statement about the incident at a news conference Wednesday night.

Diggs said Deputy Jean Browning, who is white, dressed up at a private party as Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who is African-American, and her boyfriend was dressed up as President Donald Trump.

NAACP officials said in the release that Browning’s decision to dress in blackface was inappropriate.

"For decades, blackface has been synonymous with hate, degradation and bigotry," the release states.

Diggs said the two did not intend to mock or degrade either politician, but chose the costumes as a joke.

“The combined intent of the couple was to portray how funny it would be for two political figures who were at odds with each other to go to a party together," Diggs said.

NAACP officials in the release criticized the sheriff’s office for not taking disciplinary action and called for her to be reassignment from the D.A.R.E. program.

“Deputy Browning’s conduct expressly contradicts D.A.R.E.’s goal by mocking members of the York County community and school,” the release states.

Diggs said he learned of the costume at an NAACP meeting on Nov. 6, and was handling the issue as a personnel matter. He said he’d had conversations with NAACP officials and was seeking input for the possibility of sensitivity training, as well as further conversations. He said he was surprised to receive an email Wednesday afternoon notifying him of the NAACP’s release.

“I am disappointed that another meeting was not scheduled,” he said.

Diggs said Browning is remorseful. She is being reassigned to the courts.

“In hindsight, she should have used better judgment,” he said.

Ketchum can be reached by phone at 757-247-7478.

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