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Cambridge police detective sues over suspension for complaining about George Floyd and Democrats on his own Facebook page

Brian Hussey, a 24-year veteran of the Cambridge Police Department, today sued the city and its former police commissioner for the two months of administrative leave and four days of unpaid suspension he got after posting on his private Facebook page that George Floyd was “a career criminal, a thief and druggie."

In his suit against the city and Branville Bard, filed in US District Court in Boston, Hussey says his punishment violated his First Amendment rights to say what he wants off duty as a private citizen. He says his Facebook page does not identify him as a Cambridge officer and that he was not on the job when he posted.

In his complaint, Hussey describes what happened:

On or about February 25, 2021, Plaintiff read an article posted by Channel 7 WHDH with the headline "House Democrats Reintroduce Police Reform Bill Named in Honor of George Floyd."

Although Plaintiff supported police reform, and believed strongly that the individuals responsible for Floyd’s death should be prosecuted criminally, he was concerned as a private citizen that an important act of Congress would be named "in honor" of someone who was reported to have a criminal record, included aggravated robbery during a home invasion, and history of drug abuse. Accordingly, while off-duty, Plaintiff posted the following comment along with the WHDH article; "This is what its come to 'honoring' a career criminal, a thief and druggie . . . the future of this country is bleak at best." Plaintiff took the post down, as was his normal practice, about two hours after it was posted. The post in no way identified Plaintiff as a police officer.

Shortly thereafter, in March 2021, Plaintiff was informed by defendant Bard that he was being placed on "administrative leave" because of his post on Facebook. Plaintiff remained on administrative leave for about two months. After that, Defendant Bard, on behalf of the City of Cambridge, imposed a four-day suspension upon the plaintiff, which he served.

Hussey is seeking a jury trial at which he hopes to get a determination that he was wronged, back wages and monetary damages.

Bard left his Cambridge job in August for a position as vice president of public safety at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

This is not the first time somebody at Cambridge Police has gotten into trouble over an online posting. In May, 2020, Supt. Jack Albert acknowledged using the department Twitter account to call US Rep. Joe Kennedy "a liberal fucking jerk" and his then Senate opponent, Ed Markey, "a clown."

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Comments

Although Plaintiff supported police reform, and believed strongly that the individuals responsible for Floyd’s death should be prosecuted criminally.

Sure Hussey believes that. Sure he does.

I don’t know if Hussey has a case or not, but no one is buying that bulls**t. Come on.

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Voting closed 49

Odious opinions, too.

But I believe that he does have an important point here: the government cannot abridge free speech and he was fired for free speech as a private citizen while not identifying himself as a police officer.

I don't like what he had to say, but I'm glad that he is bringing his lawsuit. We don't want the government silencing employees for private statements.

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I’m not a lawyer, but this case does seem like overreach against a public employee. Let the court sort it out.

I do, however, favor a code of conduct written into contracts for public employees. There should be guardrails for extremist and blatant hate-based speech. No one should have to work along side someone promoting openly promoting racist, homophobic, and perhaps violent rhetoric.

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two months of administrative leave and four days of unpaid suspension he got

It appears that he left the job on his own later. He was placed on administrative leave in March and came back as it says he left that job for the Baltimore one in August.

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Bard, the former Cambridge police commissioner who is individually named in the suit, is the one who took the Johns Hopkins position.

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But commenting on legislation before Congress is quite clearly political speech, and he made his political speech on his own time, as a private citizen. There is an incredibly high bar for government to restrict political speech, even if they don't like the content, and even if it's made by government employees, as long as they're doing so on their own time and only representing it as their own speech, not that of their employer.

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Nobody had a first amendment right to whatever job they want, even if that job is public. The first amendment is to protect against legal consequences, not social or employment. If a cop posts something on Facebook demonstrating likely racism and rank indifference to civil rights - as is the case here - then that is overwhelming evidence that they are not fit for the job.

Do you honestly think a black Cantabrigian would get a fair shake from this cop?

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As long as they’re not a criminal………yes

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He stated facts and an opinion, but naming it after the victim is better than naming it after the murderer.
I don't think it dishonors anybody.
So he had a record.
He's still a martyr.

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We don't want the government silencing employees for private statements.

That sounds great when you look at it all by itself, but this is his employer acting as his employer, not as "the government". Employers have a right to discipline or decline to employ those who exhibit attitudes and behaviors that the employer has reason to believe would interfere with their ability to perform their job, and that's exactly what happened here.

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There's certain speech that just can't be left at the door though. There is just absolutely no way a person makes statements that indicate they clearly don't value the lives of people of different demographics from them, but doesn't actually believe those things and treats people objectively at work. The employer has the right (and the obligation, I'd argue) to maintain "isn't a fucking bigot" as a job requirement.

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In real life

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and could well in fact prevail.

But, y'know, everything else is word-for-word identical. >_>

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It's not. But the BPL has a range of options available if you'd like to actually read the book.

https://bpl.bibliocommons.com/v2/record/S75C6453032

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Where Winston was fired from his job and had to work as a security guard for a bit, until he was rehired in a smaller, whiter town, and then he voted for Republicans in a the next free and fair election. Just like 1984.

Seriously this argument is preposterous. If you went on Twitter and said “I hate my boss, he is such a stupid idiot” and your boss saw it he would be 100% in the right to fire you, unless you had a specific contract saying otherwise. And if you went on Twitter and started posting racist crap, your boss would again be 100% in the right to fire me: you’d have demonstrated that you can’t be trusted to obey civil rights laws. Which is precisely the issue with the cop’s abhorrent post!

Nobody sincerely believes that employment (public or private) is protected by the 1st Amendment. It’s confused arguments and bad faith all the way down.

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And the famous final line of that novel, "He loved Big Brother", referring to the protagonist coming around to realize that he really did enjoy the primetime CBS reality series.

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I'd like to convey my wishes that ex-officer Hussey not let the door hit his ass on the way out.

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