DOTHAM, Ala. (CBS/AP) — An Alabama police officer who was suspended and placed on probation for Facebook posts about Christopher Dorner is challenging the punishments doled out by department officials.
Dorner, a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, is accused of killing four people, including two Southern California officers, before apparently committing suicide in a burning Big Bear cabin in February.
The Dothan Personnel Board, which is expected to take at least two to three weeks to decide what could be a landmark case involving the use of social media by police, held a hearing Thursday in the case of Cpl. Raemonica Carney.
Carney turned to the board after she was reprimanded for her posts that indicated Dorner was dismissed from the LAPD for pointing out a possible civil rights violation by a co-worker.
“You have to have walked in his shoes and experienced the things he experienced … to know the things he is blowing the whistle on. I have. Have you?” Carney wrote on her Facebook page.
She also posted that based on what she had read about the case, Dorner’s morals and ethics were “probably beyond reproach.”
Carney said the posts were not supportive of Dorner’s actions.
“I never said I supported, never said I agreed with what Dorner did. My personal opinion is that Mr. Dorner went about it the wrong way,” she said at the hearing.
“She is being retaliated against now for having an unpopular belief. That is a violation of her First Amendment rights to free speech,” said her attorney, Sonya Edwards of Birmingham.
City attorney Kevan Kelly said the Facebook postings disrupted the working order of the Dothan Police Department and prompted complaints from 13 officers.
The Dothan Eagle reported that Police Chief Greg Benton said, “It does not matter what kind of officer she was, what she posted was reprehensible, disgusting, it caused a general alarm within the department.”
The Dothan Police Department’s policy on social media says employees are free to express themselves as private citizens as long as their speech does not impair working relationships, performance or harmony with co-workers.
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