City officials say former Akron Police Chief James Nice was forced to resign Sunday, in part, because of his use of the N-word.

Nice, who is white, said the racial slur in a private conversation not involving other Akron police, according to city officials.

During an interview Thursday with the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com, Mayor Dan Horrigan and Provisional Police Chief Ken Ball condemned Nice’s behavior, stressing that it doesn’t reflect the values and mission of the Akron Police Department.

“One man is not the department,” Horrigan said. “You don’t let one bad snowstorm or one bad event take away from the good you are doing.”

“The standard is clear in our department,” Ball said. “The top guy in our department couldn’t say this and get away with it. That would never be accepted. It was so alarming and hurtful.”

Nice abruptly resigned Sunday, about 48 hours after Ball said he first learned of the racial slur, that Nice was allegedly having a sexual relationship with a member of the police force and that he may be involved in crimes involving his nephew.

City officials said that Nice admitted to using the N-word and having the sexual relationship but has denied any criminal wrongdoing.

Ball said Nice expressed to him during his admission that there is a “likelihood or a possibility” that a recording exists the racial slur, but city officials say they haven’t seen or heard it.

Judi Hill, president of the Akron chapter of the NAACP, said that “it is unfortunate if he did use the N-word.”

“If true, the Akron Police Department did the right thing,” she said. “Let him go.”

On Wednesday, prosecutors in Summit County asked their counterparts in Cuyahoga County to take over the investigation into felony car theft and forgery charges against the former chief’s nephew, Joseph Nice. The special prosecutor also has taken over the investigation into the former chief.

Until Thursday, city leaders wouldn’t confirm exactly what Nice had said, other than saying he had used a racial slur. They still will not describe the context in which Nice made the inflammatory remark.

Ball said the former chief indicated he had used the N-word in a “unique environment,” influenced by a couple of people who were not police officers.

Horrigan said Nice deserved to be fired regardless of when he said the slur or why.

Horrigan and Ball said they had never witnessed or heard of any previous racial statements or actions by the chief before allegations arose over the weekend.

Nice’s attorney, Mike Callahan, said on Thursday he can’t deny or confirm that his client used the slur.

“There are no circumstances in which that terminology is appropriate. I’m not certain if he used those words or not. If he did, he certainly regrets it,” Callahan said. “He regrets the entire incident.”

Council disappointed

News of the former chief’s use of the slur, which city officials alluded to earlier this week as one of several “derogatory remarks” he had made, also disappointed minority members of City Council.

“We seem to live in a time when people are more comfortable being racist,” Ward 5 Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples said. “But even if you’re feeling it, you can’t be a police chief and a racist.”

“It really flies in the face of everything we’ve been trying to do to build relationships between community and police,” At-large Councilwoman Veronica Sims said.

Ball said the former chief’s use of the slur is counter to the numerous efforts the police department and its officers have made in recent years to build relationships with the community.

Among other things:

• Akron’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police spends a day with 200 kids teaching them how to fish.

• Officers pass out “tickets,” coupons for ice cream, to kids they see doing good things in neighborhoods and distribute free bikes.

• An officer used his own money to drive an ice cream truck through neighborhoods and pass out treats. When other officers heard about it, they chipped in to help.

Ball and Horrigan stressed that the police force treats all citizens the same — whether it’s a black teenager on Copley Road or a middle-aged white woman on Arlington Street.

Public Safety Director Charles Brown pointed out that officers get special training to counter implicit racial biases they may not recognize. The goal is to help officers identify and overcome these biases so they treat everyone the same.

Ward 4 Councilman Russ Neal joined Mosley-Samples and Sims in praising the mayor’s swift action.

Neal also named police officers who he knows are fighting to correct the biases that, if not checked, can drive a wedge between communities of color and law enforcement.

‘A reality check’

“When these things happen, it’s an opportunity for all of us to have a reality check and work harder to make life better,” Neal said of the “surprising but not shocking” use of the N-word.

“But I’m not naive,” Neal added. “When you have a department of more than 300 people, some probably use [racial slurs] as much as he did. But that’s not indicative of the entire police department.”

Ray Greene Jr., a black minister and political director for Akron Organizing Collaborative, which promotes equality and criminal justice reform, said, “We’re just happy that the mayor acted so swiftly on allegations that we already thought to be true awhile back.”

“But the main thing that we’re concerned about is transparency in the police department,” Greene said. “And we’d like to see more training for officers.

“We’re not happy to see anyone fired. But it was time. We support the mayor. But we also support the people of Akron, who deserved better.”

Staff writer Stephanie Warsmith contributed to this report. Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com. Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: @ABJDoug.