Polk County Sheriff’s Office Investigating Deputy’s Islamophobic Facebook Posts

Dan Charleston/Twitter

On Tuesday, an Iowa activist pointed Facebook followers to a pair of recent posts by Dan Charleston, a controversial deputy sergeant in the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, disparaging Muslims as extremists and terrorists.

The first post, which is still up, quotes right-wing evangelist Franklin Graham, an outspoken critic of Islam, warning of the “dangers of the teachings of Islam” without acknowledging that the vast majority of Muslims do not support extremism.


The second message, posted Monday at 8:09 p.m. and since deleted or hidden from public view, claimed Muslims have “no desire for assimilation to our Constitutional Law and only sharia” and asked how adherents of the faith who said they were peaceful were “combating this mentality happening in the United States.” “No reasoning with this evil ideology,” Charleston concluded. His thoughts appear above an image highlighting “Verses from the Qur’an that Inspire Terrorists” that were taken out of context by an anti-Islam organization.


“[H]ow can I or anyone in my community … trust someone who hold[s] islamphobic and bias[ed] views to protect us?” the activist asked in their Facebook post.

“The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is very concerned with the messages posted on social media and [we] are conducting an internal investigation regarding the situation,” the office’s public information officer, Rich Blaylock, told the Informer. “The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has received two complaints regarding the social media postings by one of our employees. We, as a law enforcement agency proudly serving a community of all faiths and backgrounds, work hard to be seen as fair and impartial.”

For years, Charleston, a Republican, has feuded with Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy, a Democrat. He has twice challenged McCarthy for sheriff, losing by wide margins both times. He has also sued him three times for alleged discrimination and retaliation, accusing McCarthy of targeting him for challenging him in the elections and refusing to investigate how Des Moines Register columnist Rehka Basu got a hold of an internal report that said Charleston had been biased against women he supervised and showed favoritism to other employees under him. One lawsuit accused McCarthy of “engaging in willful and malicious conduct toward Dan including but not limited to referring to Dan as dangerous, cancerous, [and as] radical as one can get” — which, considering Charleston’s recent Facebook posts, isn’t impossible to imagine McCarthy saying. One of the lawsuits was dismissed. Two others remain active in US district court.*

Charleston was previously fired before McCarthy was sheriff, after another internal investigation beginning in 2004 and concerning a dispute he had with a woman sergeant in the office, but his termination was overturned by the Polk County Civil Service Commission.

Last summer, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office also launched an investigation into an employee’s bigoted social media posts after the Informer reported that Alan Blaylock, a 20-year-old jailer making $18.97 an hour on the taxpayers’ dime, told a woman she wouldn’t have to worry about police murdering people of color if they just stopped calling them, called another woman a “bitch,” referred to someone else as a “fagboy ass nigga,” commented that Mexicans should speak English in public, and joked that Walmart customers smelled worse than the inmates he oversaw. Blaylock kept his job, receiving undisclosed discipline and retaking mandatory sensitivity and diversity training.

Correction: This article initially stated that the lawsuits Charleston filed against McCarthy had been dismissed. In fact, one of the three suits was dismissed but two others remain active in US district court.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.