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."