People across the country used social media to express their feelings about the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas police officers targeted because of violence against black men. Many reacted with calls for unity, patient explanations and peaceful protests, but others chose a different route.
Several police officers and first responders across the country have been fired, demoted and suspended in the past week for comments against black people and the Black Lives Matter movement. Some have faced no punishment yet but are under investigation, and others have prompted community calls for their termination.
Even when officers are punished for the comments, some police departments are refusing to reveal their names.
▪ A Kentucky corrections officer posted an image of a white police officer on Facebook with the words, “If we really wanted you dead all we’d have to do is stop patrolling your neighborhoods... and wait.” He added the caption, “Ha... truth.” He was suspended Wednesday. He was identified as Derek Hale, a sergeant for Louisville Metro Corrections.
▪ A Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputy said on Facebook that law enforcement should use fire hoses to dispel Black lives Matter protestors. He was suspended without pay on Wednesday. The Tennessee sheriff’s office would not provide his name, but news outlets have identified him as Jeremy McNary.
▪ An Overland, Kansas police officer commented on a Facebook picture that a black woman posted of her daughter on Friday. His post read, “We’ll see how much her life matters soon. Better be careful leaving your info open where she can be found :) Hold her close tonight it’ll be the last time.” The officer was fired after the police department confirmed he wrote the comment. It was unclear why the officer targeted that woman. Chief Francis Donchez Jr. would not name the officer, but a criminal investigation is underway. Some news outlets have identified him as Rodney Williams.
▪ A Savannah firefighter made a Facebook post that included racial slurs, the N-word and ended with the phrase “white power.” He was fired on Monday. Southside Fire refused to disclose the employee’s name.
▪ A Columbia, South Carolina fire department captain posted on Facebook about a legally-sanctioned Black Lives Matter protest that was blocking part of an interstate, “Idiots shutting down I-126. Better not be there when I get off work or there is gonna be some run over dumb asses.” He was fired Monday. The fire department identified him as Capt. Jimmy Morris.
▪ Two other Columbia firefighters made comments on Facebook, at least on in connection with the post above, and were fired Wednesday. Dave W. Proctor commented on the above post, “start running people over.” The other fired firefighter was Edward Augustyn, but his comments were not disclosed. A fire station in Columbia had to be temporarily closed due to backlash over those comments that led to the station’s address getting circulated on social media. It reopened Wednesday night, but 31 others remained on precautionary lockdown Thursday morning.
▪ A Detroit detective posted on Facebook, “The only racists here are the piece of shit black Lives Matter terrorists and their supporters.” He was demoted from detective to police officer on Monday. The police department identified him as Nate Weekley. Local black activist groups have called for his firing.
▪ A Haywood, North Carolina deputy replied to a woman on a Facebook post Thursday morning about the Black Lives Matter movement, “Once again if you know so much about what we do then show us how it’s done. I usually shoot people on Facebook too.” He also said, “Next time you see the police take cover we shoot for anything.” He was suspended. He was identified as Deputy Andrew Sutton.
▪ A Nashville police officer commented in a Facebook thread about Philando Castile that he would’ve shot the black man who was killed by a police officer five times instead of four. He was suspended with further action pending an internal investigation. He was identified as Anthony Venable.
▪ Another Nashville officer changed his Facebook profile picture to the iconic photo of Black Panther National Chairman Bobby Seale and Huey Newton holding a Colt .45 and a shotgun in Oakland, California. He claimed he posted the photo out of “strong historical interests.” He was relieved of duty pending an internal investigation. He was identified as Christopher Taylor.
▪ A Memphis police officer posted a picture on Snapchat that showed a white hand pointing a gun down a hallway with the emoji of a black man running at the end. Another officer posted the picture to Twitter as an alleged “act of disgust.” Both were suspended. The police department refused to give the names of the officers.
▪ An Omaha, Nebraska police officer posted a long status to Facebook about the Black Lives Matter movement, including, “BLM is NOT a pro black group. They are a anti white police group. They are racist plain and simple. Thousands of blacks are killed by other blacks. Innocent black children are killed in the crossfire. Black police officers murdered. And they are completely silent.” The officer was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. He was identified as Bryan Kulhanek.
▪ A St. Louis police officer shot a black man who tried to force his way into the officer’s home. Tyler Gebhard’s family said he was mentally ill, and the police department said he was posting “anti-law enforcement and anti-white” threats in a Facebook group the officer belonged to on Sunday. The police department said they have not found evidence the two spoke directly online, but Gebhard went to the police officer’s home, threw a concrete planter through the window and went inside. The officer shot Gebhard twice, killing him. The officer has not been identified, and the chief said he didn’t “think the officer had a choice.”
And it isn’t just individual officers making comments against the Black Lives Matter movement and black communities. The Fort Worth Police Department condemned Black Lives Matter in a Facebook post on Sunday, calling it “an organization that chooses to MURDER American law enforcement officers.” The post has since been amended then deleted, but not before 3,000 people shared it on social media.
“We decided to remove any part of the post that could create insensitivity as we simply want unity in our communities,” the Fort Worth Police Officer Association’s communications director, Officer Anthony White, told The Dallas Morning News on Monday.
“However, as an association that represents police officers, we will not support a business or organization that has shown to conduct and/or support violent acts toward those who wear a uniform and serve our communities.”