Cleveland Police Sergeant Sues City, Chief For Suspension Over Facebook

CLEVELAND, OH – A Cleveland police sergeant suspended for 10 days last year for comments he posted on his Facebook profile while off duty filed a federal lawsuit against Chief Calvin Williams and the city Wednesday, alleging the city’s policy on social media is unconstitutional.

Johnny Hamm expressed his support for his fellow police officers in June 1 post, two days after Prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s May 30 announcement that a grand jury indicted six officers in the Nov. 29, 2012 chase and shooting that resulted in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, according to the suit.

Hamm contends that the policies under which he was suspended are unconstitutional and should not be enforced. This includes clauses that say that officers cannot make statements that have a negative impact on the law enforcement of Cleveland police or would “diminish the esteem” of the department. There is also a policy that says officers are not allowed to engage in conversations detrimental to the department.

The contested policies can be viewed in the lawsuit posted below or here.

Hamm is also asking for back pay and $500,000 in damages, as well as attorney’s fees.

It was not immediately clear what Hamm wrote in the posts in question. A search on his Facebook page did not show the posts in question, and neither he nor his attorney, Steven Shafron of Cleveland, returned requests for comment.

A reporter from the Northeast Ohio Media Group has requested the records regarding Hamm’s suspension and the subsequent disciplinary proceeding.

A message left for a city spokesman seeking comment was not returned.

According to the lawsuit:

Williams began his investigation June 1, the same day Hamm made his first post and the day after McGinty’s indictment announcement.

Hamm posted his comments on June 8, and Williams added those post to the investigation. He told Hamm Sept. 2 that he would face charges of violating departmental policy.

Williams presided over a Sept. 15 disciplinary hearing and Hamm was found guilty of violating multiple departmental policies. He was given a 10-day suspension, the maximum time allowed before the decision needs to be reviewed by the city’s safety director.

Hamm also contends that Williams blocked an opportunity for him to serve as the acting commander for the Bureau of Support Services while the commander took two furlough days.


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