Firefighter Schedule Change Illegal Discrimination

Anthony Copeland, a former firefighter of 26 years, was elected mayor of the City of East Chicago, Indiana in 2010. Shortly after he was elected, Copeland implemented certain cost-cutting measures to address the City’s deficit. One such effort was freezing the salaries and benefits of East Chicago firefighters, including abolishing terminal leave, freezing longevity pay…

Officer Loses Job To Facebook Post

Shaina Kirkland served as a patrol officer with the City of Maryville’s po­lice department in Tennessee. While in that role, Kirkland periodically used her Facebook account to criticize the County Sheriff. Kirkland’s supervisors became concerned that her posts would under­mine the Department’s relationship with their sister law enforcement agency, so they asked her to stop.…

Not Unconstitutional To Bar Recording IA Interviews

Cincinnati residents may lodge police misconduct complaints with the City’s Citizen Complaint Authority. The Authority consists of a team of investigators, an executive director appointed by the city manager, and a seven-person board appointed by the mayor. In response to a complaint, the Authority conducts an investigation that usually includes interviews with the relevant officers,…

Firefighter Loses Free Speech Lawsuit Over Voicemail

Scott Millspaugh was a firefighter for Cobb County, Georgia. Millspaugh assisted with the scheduling of staff in his battalion and regularly discussed staffing with his Battalion Chief, John Graham, as part of his job duties. Millspaugh sometimes received notifications from other firefighters regarding their use of leave, and Millspaugh was responsible for finding another firefighter…

First Federal Appeals Court Plain View Project Case

The Plain View Project (PVP) was started in 2016 by a group of Philadelphia attorneys who believed that what they identified as racist and religiously biased social media posts by law enforcement officers “could erode civilian trust and confidence in police.” The PVP “hoped that police departments will investigate and address them immediately.” In 2019,…

Has The Supreme Court Slightly Opened The Free Speech Door?

It is hard to overstate the impact on public safety employee free speech rights produced by the 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos. In Garcetti, a deeply-divided Supreme Court overturned more than 40 years of public employee free speech law. The decision held that if speech is “ordinarily within the job duties” of the public…

Confederate Flag Costs Sergeant Her Job

Sergeant Silvia Cotriss worked for the City of Roswell, Georgia. The City began investigating Cotriss when it received a complaint that she was flying a Confederate battle flag in her front yard, sometimes with her police cruiser present. During the investigation, Cotriss admitted that there had been two Confederate-like flags separately displayed on a flagpole…

Officers’ Speech To City Council Not Constitutionally Protected

One might think that speech to a city council is clearly protected by the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment. As two high-ranking police officers with the City of Jellico, Tennessee discovered, the Supreme Court’s constricted view in Garcetti v. Ceballos of free speech rights of public employees means that even speech to a…

No Obligation Arbitrate Free Speech Claims

George Forbush is an officer with the Sparks Police Department in Nevada and is a member of the Sparks Police Protective Association. The Association’s contract with the City contains a disci­plinary clause providing: “No post-pro­bationary employee will be disciplined or discharged without just cause.” In 2020, Forbush posted a variety of comments from his personal…

When Unprotected ‘Employee Speech’ Becomes Protected ‘Citizen Speech’

Scott Specht works as a fire marshal for the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), where his primary responsibilities involved investigating the origins of fires. In that capacity, Specht investigated a fire in March 2018 that destroyed a five-story brownstone in Manhattan where a motion picture was being filmed. The fire resulted in serious damage…

Probation Officer Loses Free Speech Claim By Not Showing ‘But For’

Randall Knight was a probation officer for Nassau County, New York. Knight was terminated by the County in 2015 for his conduct during two incidents. The first incident involved Knight responding combatively and uncooperatively when Judy Arroyo, a City of Long Beach police officer, pulled him over for running a red light. The second incident…

Memo About Moldy Police Station Not Constitutionally Protected

Gerald Olbek was the deputy chief of the Wildwood Police Department in Florida. After a series of events that included a fire at the Department’s station, Olbek became concerned that the station had a serious mold problem. Olbek wrote a memo detailing the mold issues. The memo cited the fact that numerous employees had com­plained…

SWAT Sniper Entitled To Jury Trial In Facebook Case

You know a court’s opinion will be anything but run-of-the-mill when it begins: “Social media has allowed Americans to connect with friends in far-flung places and to share their opinions on topics both mundane and momentous. But social media can also tempt people to impulsively make inflammatory comments that they later regret. And even worse…

EMS Captain’s Facebook Post May Be Constitutionally Protected

Jamie Marquardt was a captain with City of Cleveland’s Department of Emergency Medical Services. Marquardt had a “private” Facebook page which did not identify him as a City employee. A little more than a year after a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a post appeared on Marquardt’s Facebook page: “Let me…

Firefighter’s ‘Clueless Idiots’ Comment Not Protected By First Amendment

Larry Moreau, Jr., was a captain with the St. Landry Fire Protection District No. 3 in Louisiana. In May 2017, Moreau was accused of refusing to participate in a fire training exercise. At a pre-disciplinary hearing before the District’s Board, Moreau explained that he did not participate because of an on-the-job injury that he failed…

Officer’s Firing For Facebook Posts Upheld

Anthony Venable, who had been an officer with the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Police Department (MNPD) since 2007, engaged in a Facebook conversation regarding the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota. At the time, Venable was off-duty and the shooting had happened just the day before. During the course of the conversation, Venable posted…

Barring Criticism Of City Is Unlawful ‘Prior Restraint’ Of Speech

Thelma Barone was a Community Service Officer II with the Springfield Police Department in Oregon. Barone focused on victim advocacy and served as a Department liaison to the City’s minority communities. Throughout her tenure, members of the Latino community complained to Barone about alleged racial profiling by the Department. She relayed these complaints to Department…

Refusal To Change Report Not Protected Speech

Lorenzo Davis was a supervisor for Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority. The Authority investigated certain types of complaints against Chicago police, including domestic violence, excessive force, and death in police custody. After investigating such allegations, the Authority made a disciplinary recommendation to the Chicago Police in the form of a report. The report summarized the…