As the cries for police reform grow louder across the nation, some police departments are holding their officers accountable, firing or suspending those accused of excessive force during recent protests.
One Florida police organization has said it will re-hire those very officers accused of misconduct, and that offer is prompting outrage. On Saturday, the Brevard County chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police posted a message on Facebook addressed to the “Buffalo 57” and “Atlanta 6,” saying that it was “hiring.”
“Buffalo 57” appears to refer to the 57 police officers in Buffalo, New York, who resigned from the force’s emergency response team following the suspension of two officers who were captured on video pushing a 75-year-old protester to the ground.
“Atlanta 6” refers to the six Atlanta police officers who were booked, five on felony charges, after being accused of using excessive force on two black college students who were leaving a protest in their car. In a video recording of the incident, the officers are seen breaking the vehicle’s windows, pulling the female student out of the car, and tasing the male student.
“Lower taxes, no spineless leadership, or dumb mayors rambling on at press conferences… Plus… we got your back!” the Brevard County F.O.P. added in its post. In another Facebook post made on Sunday, the organization made the same offer to the Minneapolis police, who are currently facing calls to be defunded and dismantled after four of its officers were charged for their involvement in George Floyd’s death.
“Minneapolis officers… we will not disband our agencies or give in… we are hiring in Florida,” the post said. The two posts garnered hundreds of angry comments, with many saying that the posts just proved why the police need to be defunded.”You supporting police brutality and offering this state as a safe haven for bad cops will not be tolerated. This is why police should be defunded and disbanded,” one comment read.
Both posts have since been deleted and the Brevard County F.O.P did not return CNN’s request for comment. But in comments to Florida Today, Brevard County F.O.P. President Bert Gamin claimed responsibility for the post regarding the Buffalo and Atlanta police officers and defended them.
“The police had the legal authority in both cases,” Gamin said in an email to Florida Today. “At the time the warnings were provided, the citizens were already breaking the law. Those citizens chose to disregard the warnings. It led directly to escalations and confrontations with the police. When we issue lawful commands/warnings, citizens have a responsibility to comply. The reality is a failure to comply leads to escalation.”Gamin, according to his LinkedIn page, has been a lieutenant with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office for 26 years, but Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey distanced his office from the union.”The ‘Brevard County F.O.P.’ page and organization has no official affiliation with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and was not authorized in any capacity by me or our agency to recruit or comment on our behalf!!” Sheriff Wayne Ivey said in a statement posted to the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page.
Ivey added that the comments made by the union were “extremely distasteful and insensitive” to “critical issues that are occurring across our country,” and that his office “does not condone” the content in any way. Tod Goodyear, the spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told CNN that the department is currently trying to determine whether Gamin violated any policies.”Although we find the comments he made disturbing, there are still some protections provided by the constitution on free speech,” Goodyear said. “If there was a violation of policy, I’m sure it will be dealt with.”The Fraternal Order of Police, which is the nation’s largest organization of law enforcement officers with more than 330,000 members, did not return CNN’s request for comment.
Alicia Lee I CNN