Portsmouth School Board candidate apologizes for online post

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Days before an election for the Portsmouth School Board, candidate Jo Ann Clarke is facing backlash for a post she made on Facebook. She said she wrote it while she was upset about information from a newspaper article on Stephen Rankin and his past. The former Portsmouth Police officer was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed man, William Chapman.

The post, published by the Virginian-Pilot says:

Lesson learned: Never hire ex-military-they are only trained to do their job -Kill or be killed. Police officers are dealing with children, adolescents, elderly, homeless, and mentally challenged- they must be trained to shoot last.(especially if dealing with an unarmed citizen)”

Mike McKenna, a representative of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, called the comment strange.

“Usually police departments want to hire military because they’re experienced with dealing with individuals, they’re trained, they’re in good shape, so why she would even make a comment like that, I have no idea,” he said.

Jim Swan, President of the Fraternal Order of Police chapter in Portsmouth said, “I think it’s ridiculous…It’s an unfair representation of people who do wonderful things.”

Clarke told WAVY News she made an off-the-cuff comment, and now realizes it doesn’t look right. She said she wasn’t suggesting members of the military don’t make good police officers, but asked, “If we can’t protect officers and civilians by being aware of these kinds of issues, what else are we to do? Not hire someone like Rankin?”

Clarke has since deleted the post and said, “If I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings, I apologize.”

“It’s too late. It’s already happened. She already said it, and I still feel when she said it, she probably meant it, and now she wants to backtrack and make different statements,” McKenna said.

Clarke declined to talk to WAVY News on camera, saying she did not want to appear as if she was using media for political purposes.

Portsmouth Police declined to comment on the post.