A police chief in the US state of Florida has been stood down after telling his staff that a fellow police officer only died from coronavirus because of his "homosexual lifestyle".
Dale Engle, the chief of the Davie Police Department in Broward County, faces an investigation after the local police union laid a complaint about his comments.
Engle is alleged to have berated police officers who requested access to personal protective equipment, telling them their concerns were "baseless".
The officers' union, the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police, say that officers asked Engle on April 7 about their risk of exposure to the coronavirus and about the department's safety protocols.
The officers' concerns were raised four days after Broward County Sheriff Deputy Shannon Bennett died after contracting Covid-19, making him the first in Florida to die from the disease.
Bennett was a member of the LGBTQ community.
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"In response to our members' concerns, Davie Police Chief Dale Engle chose to instead retaliate against our members," said Mike Tucker, chief of staff for the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police.
"Chief Engle then proceeded to berate these members about the issues they raised, yelling about their 'baseless concerns'."
Engle allegedly made the officers stand in formation in the car park while he lectured them.
"Chief Engle allegedly yelled about a 'backstory' which proclaimed that Deputy Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a 'homosexual who attended homosexual events'," the complaint reads.
"The reported inference was that it was because of this homosexual lifestyle that Deputy Bennett first contracted a serious underlying disease which aggravated the Covid-19 virus and led to his death."
Bennett's fiancé Jonathan Frey told a local TV station that Bennett had no underlying health concerns.
"The Chief's alleged comments are completely false, homophobic, and slanderous," Frey said in a statement.
"I look forward to the fair and impartial investigation initiated by the Town Manager, and I hope that appropriate action will be taken at its conclusion."
The Miami Herald reported that Engle later emailed his staff to clarify his remarks.
"I made comments concerning the death of BSO Deputy Bennett as reported in the local media. These comments were relative to Covid-19 and personal protective equipment," Engle wrote.
"My intent was to provide as much information to personnel as possible. If my comments were taken out of context, they were not intended to be derogatory."