Officials in Flint, Michigan say a city police officer has been fired for making Facebook comments – while he was on duty – celebrating a fatal double-shooting by referring to the victims as “maggots.”
Flint police chief James Tolbert says officer Robert Garceau was terminated from duty on Aug. 18 after the police department was made aware of two comments he made on Facebook saying:
Keep purging society of these maggots. Two less welfare, food stamp people. Keep it up.
Let’s have another stop the violence rally LOL.
“It was brought to my attention that a member of this department publicly made statements on a Facebook page that are gravely inconsistent with the basic elements of our mission as police officers.” Tolbert said. “These comments were posted in a public forum in response to a double shooting that occurred on Aug. 8 in which one person died and another was listed in critical condition.”
Tolbert did not specify what public page the comment was made on but added that the comments came to the departments attention after someone saw them and alerted officials.
“We don’t monitor our officers’ Facebook pages, we don’t have their passwords, we don’t break into them,” Tolbert said. “This was from a citizen who saw this, was so taken aback by it that they decided to make us aware of it and that’s what started the ball rolling on the investigation.”
Tolbert said the officers comments violated the department’s code of conduct and social media policy.
“Officer Garceau’s comments were mean and divisive and promote violence at a time when our community is struggling to cope with many senseless, violent acts including acts against an innocent 1-year-old and his 70-year-old godmother,” Tolbert said.
Garceau’s attorney, Tom Pabst, maintains that the firing violates Garceau’s First Amendment rights, and said a lawsuit will be filed against the department if the officer does not get his job back.
“If he speaks as a citizen and he’s fired for it, it’s a violation of the First Amendment and I think that’s exactly what we have here,” Pabst said. “The chief can write all the little rules and regulations that he wants, but being the chief of police in the city of Flint, that doesn’t give him the right or authority to trump the United States Constitution.”
Pabst said he believes the termination was made in retaliation to a 2012 federal lawsuit filed by Garceau and nine other white officers alleging that they were passed over for promotions in favor of black officers, even though they had more seniority.
No trial has been set yet in that case.