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Monday, July 31, 2023

Court Finds Criticism of Police Chief by Former Officer Not Actionable Under First Amendment

A former police officer brought a lawsuit against the Police Chief alleging that his First Amendment rights were violated. The officer had raised concerns about the Chief's actions at a fire and police commission meeting and claimed that the Chief harassed and retaliated against him because of his protected speech. The district court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the officer's criticism of the Chief was not First Amendment protected speech because he made those remarks in his role as a public employee and not a private citizen. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court, holding that a First Amendment retaliation claim requires a showing that the challenged speech was constitutionally protected, which the officer could not demonstrate in this case because the officer's criticism of the Chief was made as a public employee and not actionable under the First Amendment. Fehlman v. Mankowski.


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