WARREN A hearing officer has issued a 30-working-day unpaid suspension to a Trumbull County Sheriff’s deputy who purportedly wrote a Facebook post commenting on the man who died in police custody in Baltimore.
Maj. Tom Stewart of the sheriff’s office served as hearing officer for an appeal by Deputy Michael Geer of a finding by Maj. Harold Firster that Geer should be fired for the comments.
After a hearing, Stewart informed Geer’s union representative May 22 that Stewart was reducing the proposed punishment from firing to a 30-working day unpaid suspension and sensitivity training. The unpaid suspension began Monday, Stewart said.
Atty. Randall Weltman of the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, who represents Geer, said by phone Wednesday the suspension is “outrageous” and also will be appealed “through a grievance.”
Stewart also conducted the investigation, which resulted from a complaint to the sheriff’s office by Helen Rucker, a Warren council member, who provided the sheriff’s office with a copy of the post.
“She stated that she found it very offensive,” Firster wrote in one of the documents. Additional research confirmed that the post had come from Geer, Firster said. He added that Geer removed the post five to 10 minutes after he posted it, but someone took a photo of it.
According to a copy of the post provided by Firster, the post says, “Hi, I’m Freddie Grey [sic] and I’m a great guy! It doesn’t matter how many of your friends, family, adults, young and old, and yes teenagers and young children that I have helped getting them hooked on the drugs that I sold them. It doesn’t matter how many have overdosed and died. It doesn’t matter if I have robbed, stolen or even assaulted you, a friend, or even a family member.”
It continues, “Why do you ask? Because, I am a nice guy! I too could be a son of Obama’s. So let me end by saying THANK YOU to the President, Mayor, NAACP, and all you other raciest [sic] mother… out there that hate and blame the cops and White’s [sic] for your problems. Thank [sic] for burning down the place that YOU dumb … live! Keep the [sic] showing the world how dumb and [sic] who the true raciest [sic] really are. Keep desecrating your own flag that great men and women, White, Black, Indian, Hispanic and Asian all who bravely died so that you can stand there showing the world your gratitude for their sacrifice.”
Firster wrote a May 12 memo to Geer indicating that Geer had violated three articles of the rules and regulations of the sheriff’s office.
One was exercising common sense and affirmatively promoting the organization’s values. Another was committing or condoning illegal or forbidden harassment. The third was discriminating or establishing patterns of discrimination in the performance of duties.
Stewart indicated in his May 22 email to Weltman that he was dismissing Firster’s finding that Geer had violated the discrimination rule.
Weltman said a decision to punish Geer for the post “is subversive of his rights to free speech. It was not his intention to make a racial point. It was to make a comment on the victim in Baltimore, how he should not be turned into a hero or a martyr.”
He added that Geer’s comments were “not in conjunction with his duties as a deputy. It was on his own time.”
Geer’s statements were not harassment, Weltman said. “He’s speaking to his friends and family.”
Gray died of a fatal spine injury while in Baltimore police custody. Six Baltimore police officers were indicted in his death.
Rucker told The Vindicator on Tuesday she found Geer’s post “stupid,” but she didn’t think he deserved to be fired.
Fred Harris, former Warren safety-service director, said he spoke with Sheriff Thomas Altiere and Firster about the post because he also had a copy of it. He said the post showed a lack of judgment on Geer’s part, and that is troubling in any person who carries a gun while on the job.
From The Vindicator