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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Court Upholds Police Officer's Termination for Facebook Venting

From Strategically Social:  A federal judge has ruled against a former police officer who sued the City of Greenville, claiming that City officials violated her free speech rights by firing her over comments posted on Facebook. Grazios v. City of Greenville.   The officer's comments criticized Police Chief Cannon's decision not to send representatives from Greenville's police department to the funeral of an officer who was killed in the line of duty earlier that month.
She posted her comments to both her personal Facebook page and the Mayor's campaign page. Her Facebook postings included the following:
"I just found out that Greenville Police Department did not send a representative to the funeral of Pearl Police Officer Mike Walter, who was killed in the line of duty on May 1, 2012. This is totally unacceptable. I don’t want to hear about the price of gas–officers would have gladly paid for and driven their own vehicles had we known the city was in such dire straights (sic) as to not to be able to afford a trip to Pearl, Ms., which, by the way, is where our police academy is located. The last I heard was the chief was telling the assistant chief about getting a group of officers to go to the funeral. Dear Mayor, can we please get a leader that understands that a department sends officers of (sic) the funeral of an officer killed in the line of duty? Thank you. Susan Graziosi."
"Dear Mayor, can we please get a leader that understands that a department sends officers (to) the funeral of an officer killed in the line of duty?"

She was fired for violations of discipline and accountability, insubordination and rules of conduct, as laid out in Greenville Police Department's policy and procedure manual.
The district court judge first considered whether the officer spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern, requiring two separate questions: (1) was the subject of her speech a matter of public concern and (2) did she speak as a citizen rather than an employee. In this case, the judge ruled that the officer's comments were "made from her perspective as a disgruntled police officer, not a concerned citizen."
According to the judge, the officer "did not speak out about any issue that related to the public safety or trust they had in the GPD but rather an internal decision of the department." As a result, the officer's comments were not afforded First Amendment protection, and her retaliation claim was dismissed.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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