A Flint city police officer was fired for violating the City of Flint‘s social media policy after making a controversial post from his personal Facebook account. Flint veteran police officer Robert Garceau was told to turn in his badge once the Flint police chief was made aware of the comment he posted on Facebook about two shooting victims. Flint Police Chief James Tolbert said he was made aware of the “inappropriate” Facebook comment — allegedly posted on a public page — by a concerned citizen.
The former Flint police officer’s lawyer, Tom Pabst, asked, “What are they, the speech police? You can’t fire a guy for expressing his opinion like that.” He added, “They are citing that he posted something on social media that they felt was inappropriate and they claim was a violation of rules and regulations.”
Pabst said the department violated his client’s freedom of speech, but ABC 12 News, through the Freedom of Information Act, discovered exactly what the seasoned police officer wrote that the citizen found so disturbing.
The comment, according to a WILX report, was referencing a murder case that the Flint police department had investigated. According to MLIVE, it was a fatal double-shooting in the City of Flint. The former Flint police officer reportedly referred to them as maggots.
“Keep purging society of the maggots. 2 less welfare, food stamp people. Keep it up.”
— MLive (@MLive) August 22, 2015
“He wasn’t on duty, this is America, he’s got the right to say what he wants on Facebook. We all do. I mean. it’s our First Amendment right, pure and simple, and I thought everybody understood that. I guess the City of Flint doesn’t,” Pabst argued. “He puts his life out on the line for the City of Flint and this is how they treat him. They don’t like what he said, so they fire him.”
“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,” Chief Tolbert explained. “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. It also came at a time when this community had suffered from a tragically high number of homicides.”
Chief Tolbert said a second comment made by the fired officer read, “Let’s have another stop the violence rally LOL.”
Chief Tolbert called the officer’s comments mean and said that they promoted violence.
“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.”
Chief Tolbert also called the Facebook posts void of the empathy that he expects from police officers in Flint.
“Men and women of this department care about this community and work tirelessly every day to protect and serve its residents. Statements of this nature do not and should not be allowed to reflect negatively on them. Law enforcement requires a commitment of the heart to the community you serve. These statements are void of that empathy included in that commitment of law enforcement officers. Any officer not 100 percent committed to the mission of protecting and serving our residents has no place with the Flint Police Department.”
The former police officer reportedly may sue the City of Flint for wrongful termination. Garceau’s lawyer says his client and eight other officers filed a federal suit in 2012 claiming that they were passed over for promotions because they are white. He believes his client was actually fired from the Flint Police Department in retaliation for the racial discrimination lawsuit, and not over the Facebook comments.
— MLive (@MLive) August 19, 2015
[Featured Photo via Flint PD/Facebook]