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Springfield Police Detective Fired Over Black Lives Matter Post On Instagram

Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen
The Republican / masslive.com/photos
Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood pins a badge on Florissa Fuentes at a July 2019 graduation ceremony of the Springfield Police Academy.

A police detective in Springfield, Massachusetts, has been fired after sharing a post on social media. According to a report in The Republican newspaper, the Instagram post showed a picture of the detective's niece at a Black Lives Matter event, holding a sign that suggested shooting back at police officers.

Rookie detective Florissa Fuentes told reporter Stephanie Barry of The Republican the post was made on a personal account while she was off-duty.

Fuentes said she was showing pride in her niece’s activism, and she does not advocate violence against police. But the post generated criticism from many fellow officers even after she apologized.

Stephanie Barry, The RepublicanShe felt truly badly about the fallout that occurred after she posted something she just thought was being supportive of a particular cause as a person of color.

Kari Njiiri, NEPR: What explanation did the police department give for the firing?

The primary explanation was that she violated [the] social media policy. I reviewed the social media policy, and it seems to me she ran afoul of a phrase in that policy that seems to be kind of a catch-all — to "exercise good judgment." The other reason they provided was "conduct unbecoming," which is another kind of catch-all in their disciplinary policy.

There have been recent cases of police, and even firefighters, posting controversial comments — most of them racist — that led to disciplinary action. What makes Fuentes's case different by posting a picture?

Well, I think the commissioner's argument is that it is not different, despite the fact that it is pro-Black Lives Matter and pro-activist, as opposed to being racist. But their argument would be that the policy needs to be applied uniformly, no matter which philosophical side you fall on.

You've been covering the Springfield police for years. What does this situation say about the culture in the department, if anything?

Well, I think the culture right now is very fraught. I think a lot of them recognize that the national culture is not cutting in their favor.

I think many of them will concede that particularly the situation in Minneapolis, with George Floyd, was tragic, and many of them would denounce it. However, I think that they feel that the public attitude toward all police officers is collateral damage.

And I think they felt particularly betrayed by Florissa. Their interpretation was that she was exacerbating a public attitude they've already been battling against, whether that's correct or incorrect.

She was a rookie. She was on probation, basically. Did the fact that she was new to the force make a difference in her firing?

I think the fact that she was new to the force made all the difference. Their policy is that all new police officers go through a one-year probationary period, and they have far less protection under civil service. And that's to say that they really have no protection under civil service.

So if she had been tenured, I think the outcome may have been different. Or if the outcome wasn't different, she would have had more resources to tap into to fight her termination.

Did Fuentes tell you what she plans to do next?

She wasn't terribly specific. I don't want to speak for her, but my sense is that she's trying to gauge what kind of support there is out there for her. And I believe she is considering legal action. But beyond that general statement, I wouldn't like to speak for her.

Kari Njiiri is a senior reporter and longtime host and producer of "Jazz Safari," a musical journey through the jazz world and beyond, broadcast Saturday nights on NEPM Radio. He's also the local host of NPR’s "All Things Considered."
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