Hartford police are investigating a social media post they believe was made by one of their own that disparaged residents and the area and called for an “air strike.”
Patrol Officer Jay Szepanski has been reassigned to the booking division while an internal investigation is underway into a derogatory Facebook post he’s accused of making under an alias on Sept. 16, according to Lt. Paul Cicero.
The writer of the post shared a photo of an intersection in Hartford with a caption that said, “Every [expletive] parasite in the city passes through this [expletive] intersection at least once a day! It’s 10AM and it’s been half a dozen hookers, several dozen junkies, lost suburbanites looking for Heroin and 3 LIME bikes Someone do me a solid and call in an air strike!”
The photo appears to show the intersection of Park and Hudson streets, in Frog Hollow.
The post was created by an account named “Jay Utah,” whose profile displayed a picture of a grenade with the words, “They see me rollin, they runnin’.” One of those who circulated the post on social media was Hartford Board of Education member Craig Stallings, who posted it as a screenshot on Sept. 30.
“So when is the mayor or police chief going to do something about officer posing this,” Stallings wrote. “There are major problem in the police department.”
J. Stan McCauley, a candidate for mayor, commented on Stallings’ post, writing, “Total disrespect for the citizens and constituents of Hartford and a sense of lawlessness which is manifested in Hartford everyday. An Administration that can’t keep appointed staff, and thus we have reckless dis-regard for law and order as is manifest everywhere one looks.”
Hartford police addressed the situation on Facebook on Thursday, writing that the department had begun an investigation into an alleged social media post by a member.
“There are disciplinary consequences for any member of the department that violates our code of conduct,” the department wrote. “It is a privilege to serve the public, and these alleged posts do not reflect the Department we work to be every day.”
While the department did not share the post, Cicero confirmed it was the one written by the “Jay Utah” account.
Szepanski has been a member of the police department since 2006. In 2015, he was among about 30 Hartford police officers awarded a distinguished service medal from the department for heroic actions.
Interim Chief Jason Thody also distributed a memo to all personnel about internet posts, saying, “Recently, a number of incidents have come to light where members of this department have posted inappropriate material of one kind or another to their personal social media accounts.”
Cicero said he did not know of any other officers who are under investigation for such posts.
The memo also referenced a social media incident in the Philadelphia Police Department that led to the firing of 13 officers.
“Public trust, faith, and police legitimacy are essential requirements to be an effective police officer,” Thody wrote. “Making comments that tend to diminish officer-credibility, erode public trust, and bring discredit to the Department or to an officer can led to an inability to police in the city.”
He reminded employees that speech made as part of their job is not protected from discipline, and that officers are prohibited from using social media from personal devices or department computers while on duty, unless they are doing so for their job.
“We are all representatives of this agency, on-duty or off,” Thody finished. “I would ask that we all work together for the common good, come to work to serve the community as best we can, and continue to provide the highest level of police service possible in a fair and impartial manner.”