An organization launched by Joe Arpaio, known as “America’s toughest sheriff,” has taken up the cause of several Philadelphia police officers dismissed for their private social media statements with a lawsuit against the city.
America’s Sheriff, whose general counsel is Larry Klayman, founder of FreedomWatchUSA, has filed case against the city and a private activist organization charging violations of the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 14th Amendments.
The case is on behalf of plaintiffs Michael Melvin, Dan Farrelly, Brion Milligan, Mark Palma, Robert Bannan, Jesus Cruz, Steven Hartzell and Joseph Fox against the city and an organization called Injustice Watch, operating as “Plain View.”
“This complaint is for the systematic violation of plaintiffs’ civil rights under the Constitution of the United States, including the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and pursuant to [federal law], as well as the Constitution of Pennsylvania, and all statutes and common law deriving therefrom and related thereto; and for those damages and other relief arising, as described hereafter, out of the targeted, discriminatory and illegal firing (directly and/or indirectly by forced retirement or resignation) by the city of Philadelphia of the plaintiffs from their posts as sworn police officers working for the Philadelphia Police Department, resulting from the hacking or other unauthorized invasion of their private Facebook accounts without permission, by the Plain View defendants and their collaboration and concerted action with the city based thereon.”
The America’s Sheriff organization was organized specifically to be a watchdog group that is to “promote, protect and fight” for the interests and legal rights of law-enforcement officers.
The organization’s founding announcement said officers have been under attack “with radical leftists looting, burning, stealing, maiming and even assaulting and killing law enforcement officers,” and it blamed mayors and governors for contributing to the problem.
Arpaio said that after 58 years “in law enforcement serving the nation and around the world, I find it disgusting what is occurring today in our great country where the respect of the criminal justice system and our dedicated law enforcement officers has disappeared because crooked of politicians with a mission to destroy our country for political reasons.”
“As the nation is being attacked and law abiding Americans are being robbed, maimed and killed by leftist radicals, our law enforcement officers have been handcuffed by primarily Democrat governors and mayors who ordered them not to defend We the People,” he said in announcing the organization.
The Philadelphia case alleges that Plain View assembled a database of Facebook posts by police officers concerning “race, religion, ethnicity and the acceptability of violent policing,” and publicized them.
The site specifically stated it had no “concern” whether the posts were protected by the First Amendment.
The organization, on its site, publicly undermined the officers by charging that their statements “could undermine public trust and confidence in our police.”
The officers’ statements then were characterized as “Islamophobic,” “anti-Semitic” or “otherwise ethnically bigoted.”
The lawsuit explains the site then characterized the officers as bigots.
The city then used that information to remove the officers from their positions, it charges.
“Incredibly, in their selection of officers to sanction or fire for social media behavior, the city did not look to any of the numerous examples of Facebook and other social media posts by non-white officers or officers of the Islamic faith,” the case charges.
While police commanders initially told the officers who were under city “investigation” that the issue was not serious, the lawsuit charges that Mayor James Kenney “had intervened.”
That meant, the lawsuit charges, “they were going to be fired…”
This despite the opinion expressed by a senior police leader who suggested “the database was a political witch hunt meant to criticize only those officers who hold conservative political beliefs,” the complaint charges.
Further, the complaint cites anti-white statements posted online by other officers who never were disciplined.
The case seeks damages for the officers’ losses, including emotional and reputational injury, as well as punitive damages.
Those are expected to be in excess of $2 million per plaintiff, “trebled where appropriate.”
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