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NAACP chapter president questioned about her racial identity

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    FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, file photo, Rachel Dolezal, center, Spokane's newly-elected NAACP president, smiles as she meets with Joseph M. King, of King's Consulting, left, and Scott Finnie, director and senior professor of Eastern Washington University's Africana Education Program, before the start of a Black Lives Matter Teach-In on Public Safety and Criminal Justice, at EWU, in Cheney, Wash. Dolezal's family members say she has falsely portrayed herself as black for years. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review via AP, File)

SPOKANE, Wash. >> Police in eastern Washington said Friday they’re no longer investigating racial harassment claims made by Rachel Dolezal, the head of a local NAACP chapter whose integrity was thrown into question when her mother said she’s a white woman pretending to be black.

Dolezal has filed police complaints, saying she received hate mail at the organization’s post office box.

Authorities, however, have said it’s unlikely a letter that didn’t have a date stamp or bar code could have been placed in the box without a key.

Inquiries into the complaints were suspended this week, Spokane police spokeswoman Teresa Fuller said. They could reopen if new information emerges, she said.

Dolezal’s story has triggered a national debate over race and ethnicity, and such questions prompted NAACP officials to release a statement saying the organization’s leaders can come from any background.

The statement also said the organization respected her privacy on the matter.

Dolezal, meanwhile, has declined to comment directly about her background, saying Thursday the “question is not as easy as it seems. There’s a lot of complexities, and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.”

She couldn’t be reached Friday when contacted by The Associated Press.

Aside from her role as president of the Spokane NAACP chapter, Dolezal is an adjunct professor in the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University and chairwoman of Spokane’s police overnight board.

Spokane officials have said there’s an investigation into whether she violated city policy when she listed herself as white, black and American Indian on her application for the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission.

Dolezal has said the controversy emerged because of legal issues between family members, but she hasn’t offered specifics.

Ruthanne Dolezal told The Spokesman-Review newspaper ( ) that her daughter’s background is Czech, Swedish and German, with some Native American.

She said she and her daughter haven’t been in touch for years but that Rachel Dolezal began to portray herself as black about a decade ago after the family adopted four black children.

“It’s very sad that Rachel has not just been herself,” the mother told the newspaper by phone from her home in Montana. “Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”

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