SPARKS, NV — A police officer in Sparks, Nevada was suspended for four days for making anti-Black Lives Matter comments on his personal social media account, and now he is suing the city for violating his freedom of speech.
Officer George Forbush is seeking one million dollars in damages after his suspension, which the city says was warranted because they feel his social media posts threatened Black Lives Matter activists and others.
On Monday, May 10th, the City Council voted to hire an independent counsel to defend the city against the federal lawsuit that was filed by the bomb squad technician who has served 19 years on the force, according to reports.
The suit alleges the city violated his First Amendment rights when it punished him “because of his particular viewpoint of his political opinions as expressed on his personal social media.”
— Williamsnews24 (@williamsnews24) May 12, 2021
The posts in question, were a series of four Twitter posts from last summer that included his comments about tossing gasoline toward protesters seen in a video trying to burn a fire-resistant American flag and his plan to “build a couple AR pistols just for BLM, Antifa or active shooters who cross my path and can’t maintain social distancing.”
NBC reported that the city’s disciplinary investigation, which launched after an anonymous complaint, confirmed all Forbush’s posts were made on his own time, as a private citizen and that “nowhere in the posts or on his Twitter feed did he identify himself as a Sparks police officer,” the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno:
“A public employer may not discipline or retaliate against its employees for the content of their political speech as private citizens on matters of public concern,”
“Officer Forbush did not relinquish his right to think, care, and speak about politics and current events when he accepted a job as a police officer,”
After reviewing more than 700 of his Twitter posts, the city suspended Forbush over four of the posts, including one that criticized an officer convicted of planting evidence, NBC reported.
He said it:
“would be ironic if someone planted drugs by cramming them” into a body cavity “so they could be found during an intake search when he goes to prison for what he did.”
A police officer in Nevada, who is accusing the city of violating free speech rights, is seeking $1M in damages after he was suspended for making comments on social media that the city says constituted threats to Black Lives Matters activists and others https://t.co/JSpdpMWw7d
— NBCBLK (@NBCBLK) May 14, 2021
The lawsuit is asking that the court require the city to wipe Forbush’s personnel file clean of all disciplinary actions from this incident. The lawsuit is also asking that the city “implement a policy governing officers’ personal social media use that is consistent with the Constitution.”
The lawsuit said:
“The city does not have a clear, consistent, and Constitutional policy regarding officers’ personal social media use,”
It went on to say:
“The current climate of uncertainty, and arbitrary enforcement targeting political viewpoints, chills the exercise of the constitutional rights of speech and political participation of all city personnel.”
The city policy says:
“Employees and elected officials should not post discriminatory remarks, harassing statements, and threats of violence or any language that can be viewed as malicious, obscene, threatening or intimidating toward fellow employees, citizens, or vendors.”
The lawsuit said it makes no distinction between speech that could reasonably be expected to disrupt the department’s operations, and speech that would not.
“Forbush’s case is a warning broadcast to all city employees that they had better not say anything, anywhere, in any forum, even in their personal social media discussions of matters of public concern,”
City officials and police didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony honoring fallen officers disrupted by BLM protesters
May 16, 2021
MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony to pay tribute to those officers who gave their lives upholding the law was interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters shouting through a megaphone to disrupt the solemn service.
— Savethehorses (@Savethehorses3) May 11, 2021
The protesters tried to drown out the honored speakers by shouting things like, “We have a right to protest” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Video of the ceremony showed attendees and speakers trying to ignore the disruption to continue the ceremony with the protesters’ shouts heard in the background.
A male protester could be heard in the background shouting as one speaker stepped away from the stage. The man shouted:
“This is a megaphone. By the way, this is not a gun, this is a megaphone.”
LIVE: Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial https://t.co/KFG6rBUreD
— WISN 12 NEWS (@WISN12News) May 7, 2021
The protesters’ actions continued during a moment of silence in honor of the fallen officers, and the video camera turns to the man shouting at an official in the crowd.
“Can you show me how I am breaking the law by asking a question. How am I breaking the law by asking a question!”
The unidentified official appeared to be trying to get the protester to follow him away from the ceremony, but the protester became more upset:
“I decide to stand right here. I think this is a public place, I pay taxes. I get to stand here.”
The protester then set the megaphone on the ground and raised his hands over his head:
“Let me set this down before any assuming, firearm-carrying civilian decides to shoot me.”
The protester then stepped toward the official and shouted at him while rap music with lyrics like “f*** the police” was playing in the background:
“You’ve got tears coming out of my eyes. You know why? Because I have faith in people, and you’re totally disrupting my f**king balance right now. I’m begging you m*********ers to stop killing people that look like me.”
The protester was eventually led away by two uniformed officers.
Despite the protesters, the ceremony continued.
On this Peace Officer Memorial Day we salute law enforcement officers across the country and honor our nation’s fallen officers – including seven members of Wisconsin State Patrol who gave their lives in the line of duty. #NationalPoliceWeek#NeverForget pic.twitter.com/yp20K0mFjn
— WI State Patrol (@wistatepatrol) May 15, 2021
The ceremony on May 7 was held to honor those officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The pandemic prevented the ceremony from proceeding last year, so the officers added to the honor roll included 2020 and 2021.
In total, six officers’ names had to be added to the memorial located on Capitol Square in Madison. C.O.P.S. President Jo Ann Mignon said:
“For the 285 names on the wall, we tell them we will not forget you, we will never forget what you gave up for us and we will never forget everyone gathered here today.”
— Call Me Mom (@Call_Me_Mom) May 13, 2021
The officers included on the 2020 Honor Roll are:
- Darlington Police Department Chief William McGinty, who died on May 25, 1933.
- Pepin County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Officer Starre A. Miles, who died on Nov. 5, 1945.
- Milwaukee Police Department Officer Matthew J. Rittner, who died Feb. 6, 2019.
- Racine Police Department Officer John D. Hetland, who died June 17, 2019.
The officers included on the 2021 Honor Roll are:
- Milwaukee Police Department Officer Mark S. Lentz, who died on Sept. 18, 2019.
- Dane County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Richard Treadwell, who died on Aug. 22, 2020.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Deputy Treadwell died after contracting COVID-19 in what is presumed to be an on-duty exposure.
The annual Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony took place at noon today. Among those honored: Dane Co. Sheriff Deputy Rick Treadwell who passed away last August due to COVID-19 @nbc15_madison pic.twitter.com/UWtG04yB4M
— Sanika Bhargaw NBC15 (@SanikaBhargaw) May 7, 2021
Deputy Treadwell served with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years and was assigned to the Dane County Law Enforcement Training Center. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Beginning in early 2020, thousands of law enforcement officers like Deputy Treadwell and other first responders throughout the country contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic due to the requirements of their job. Many of these first responders have died as a result of COVID-19 and continue to do so.
The Wisconsin ceremony was conducted in correlation with National Police Week.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 “National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day” and National Police Week as the calendar week which encompasses May 15. National Police Week 2021 is from May 9 until May 15.
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Author: K. Winters
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