Anne Arundel County police Capt. Jeffrey Silverman issued a written apology to the Caucus of African American Leaders after it filed a complaint to the department highlighting his “disparaging” social media comments about U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a black presidential candidate.
Carl Snowden, convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders, said a person who wished to remain anonymous pointed him to Silverman’s Facebook posts, sending screenshots of his comments. The caucus on March 1 filed a formal complaint to the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. The office’s Internal Affairs Unit investigated.
In at least one of the Facebook posts — there were a few and The Capital obtained about half a dozen screenshots — Silverman shared a link to a Fox News story about Harris titled “Kamala Harris says she listened to Snoop Dogg, Tupac while smoking weed in college years before they made music.” The article was based on an interview Harris had on a radio show.
Silverman wrote that Harris was an “idiot,” among other insults. Some of Silverman’s Facebook “friends” commented on his post and hurled disparaging comments, including that she endorsed “gangbangers,” referring to the renown hip hop artists.
Snowden said the captain’s comments were interpreted as racist and offensive by many, regardless of Silverman’s intent.
“I have come to understand that this post was culturally insensitive,” Silverman wrote in a letter to the caucus obtained by The Capital. “I assure you this was not my intention upon posting this comment and it was done so without malice. I apologize for the pain my words caused.”
Before being elected to her post in Congress as Democratic Senator representing California and then launching a presidential bid, Harris was a state prosecutor and then became the Attorney General of California.
Following the complaint in March, Silverman was transferred from his post as commanding officer of the department’s Criminal Investigation Division to the mostly administrative Support Services Division, where he remains the officer-in-charge. At the time Sgt. Jacklyn Davis, police spokeswoman, said Police Chief Timothy Altomare ordered an investigation and directed Silverman’s transfer as internal affairs delved into a complaint. Davis declined to say whether the transfer and that investigation were related to the caucus complaint.
“I think the point,” Snowden told The Capital, “is that if you are on the police department and if you are in a leadership position, you’re expected to conduct yourself at all times in a professional manner because you’re not reflecting an individual point of view, the public sees you as a member of the police department with these views.”
The Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Written Directive — a rule book of sorts for police — features guidelines for both department-sponsored and personal social media use.
Department personnel, according to the directive, “are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not impair working relationships of this department for which loyalty and confidentiality are… or negatively affect the public perception of the department.”
Snowden made clear that Silverman’s comments crossed that line. Altomare said he emphasized the importance of police-community relations at his public address to the caucus Tuesday, when he read aloud Silverman’s apology.
“The Anne Arundel County Police Department is committed to its relationship with ALL of our community,” Altomare wrote in a statement Thursday. “Any conduct that impairs that relationship will NOT be tolerated.”
The Department declined to disclose the outcome of the investigation into Silverman’s social media posts.
“After a full investigation looking at all facts, this case was handled appropriately and corrective action was taken… We have worked very hard to be transparent with our community while staying within the boundaries of personnel law,” Altomare said.
Snowden said Silverman originally reached out to him to apologize privately, but that he declined that offer because he felt it should be made publicly. Altomare agreed that it was appropriate for the apology to be made in public because the social media posts were made publicly, hence his public remarks.
Davis said Silverman was away on leave for a summer vacation. He could not be reached for comment.
“When you’re trying to build, as they’re trying to do in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, what they call ‘community policing,’ particularly in minority communities” founded upon public’s trust of police, Snowden said, “postings like this do not help.”
“For a police officer in leadership position, it’s highly inappropriate to ask taxpayers, who subsidize your and your colleagues salaries, to be exposed to these comments,” Snowden added, noting that the caucus accepted Silverman’s apology and expects to meet with the captain personally.
Silverman wrote in his apology that he understood that as a public official he’s accountable for his words and actions at all times.
He added: “I will certainly choose my words more carefully in the future.”