Allegations of unbecoming conduct and violations of social media policy have been sustained against a veteran Jacksonville police lieutenant who posted derisive images and racial epithets on a photo and video posting site account.
The Sheriff’s Office did not find that she was racially biased in her treatment of others in her job, but by posting the comments online on Instagram she violated code of conduct rules, according to the 21-page Internal Affairs report.
Lt. Trudy Callahan, a 20-year officer, was investigated in January after complaints that images and comments posted on her then-publicly accessible Instagram account truds137 were insulting and potentially racist and that profane remarks about the Sheriff’s Office were unfitting.
Callahan was issued a 10-day suspension after the March 29 conclusion of the investigation. She is appealing the punishment, the Sheriff’s Office said Friday. She also resigned Feb. 1 from her board of directors post with Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police at the request of the union president.
Callahan defended the posts when she was questioned by Internal Affairs investigators, in part saying the comments were not meant to be harmful and that in some cases a racial slur was merely “a word used to describe a friend or describe a buddy,” she said in the report.
“Callahan wanted to include on the record that she felt as though the allegations were an example of things being ‘taken out of context’ and ‘twisted and turned to fit people’s agendas,’” according to the summation.
Asked in the investigation if she found the postings inappropriate, she said she did not find them offensive. She continued that if she had thought they would cause any “‘disruption’” to the Sheriff’s Office, police union or in other places, she would not have made them.
One posting is a reposting of a police composite from another city that shows a black man with dreadlocks draping his face and the caption: “The police really expect somebody to find this n – – – a I know 6 n – – – s that look like this.”
The image is posted by Callahan, who confirmed in the report that truds137 was her account.
Under the image, she also comments, “I could be a sketch artist.”
In the internal investigation she said she only meant that the artist’s work was bad and that the drawing could be of anybody with dreadlocks-style hair.
Another posting shows a photograph of a biracial man standing in a VyStar credit union drive-through while everyone else is in a car. The post jokes about the man needing money for gas.
Callahan said she simply felt sorry for the man.
Another showed a black man lying in a broken-down portion of a chain-link fence, declaring it a “hood hammock” to be used to “chilax.”
Asked what message she meant to send with the image, she said “none,” according to the summation. She said that was also a repost.
In all, there were six postings that were subject of the investigation.
Callahan has a history of complaints since her hiring in March 1996. In 2003 she was considered the most complained-about Jacksonville police officer on the force, according to a Times-Union story at the time. She has served three previous suspensions.
She also had a long list of commendations, including one for saving a woman from jumping off a 19th-floor hotel railing and another for work helping shut down four drug houses.
The Sheriff’s Office said it first learned about the postings in a news media story.
A civilian employee of the Sheriff’s Office who is black texted Undersheriff Pat Ivey the day after the story was broadcast. The employee, who said she was offended by the postings, told Ivey they made the entire department look bad.
She told the Internal Affairs investigator that on several occasions members of the community told her there were inappropriate postings on the account and that they were in disbelief that a lieutenant would have such disrespect for people and post questionable material.
She said she believed the attitude shown by the lieutenant made an impression on others, including subordinates and recruits and that some may have adopted similar opinions as Callahan.
As in other cases, the woman also gave positive feedback on Callahan and said she did not have a poor personal relationship with her. She said the lieutenant has a “heart of gold” and would “go above and beyond,” but added she felt Callahan had “no filter,” according to the report.
The investigation found employees should be aware that they are responsible for their social media presence and, among other standards, not to make statements, use images or other forms of speech to ridicule, express bias or otherwise disparage any race.
In addition to sustaining the social media complaint, the investigation found that Callahan violated rules governing conduct which should foster “exemplary personal conduct and fairness in matters of social or political action.”
Actions by employees should not bring “disrepute or ridicule” to the department.
They did not find she was biased in her police work or that her Instagram postings interfered with her job performance in those areas.