Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Former Little Rock police recruit Katina Jones was fired last month after the department opened an internal investigation into postings on her Facebook page that contained a racial slur, police records show.
An internal affairs case file reveals that screen shots of those posts were given to the department by a woman, who said she was delivering the documents for Brandon Gurley, another fired police recruit. The department fired Gurley in December, in part over him using the same type of racial slur in past Facebook posts.
Before the screen shots were handed over, Gurley had contacted the city's human resources department and said he had not been treated fairly, the police records show. He reported that a current recruit had committed a violation but had not faced discipline.
Jones' firing is at least the third time in the past three months the Little Rock Police Department has cited a recruit's social media activity in a termination.
In December, the agency fired Brandon Schiefelbein after the department opened an internal investigation into a June 2013 Facebook post of his that included a slur offensive to black people. Schiefelbein is white.
Gurley, who is black, raised concerns about Schiefelbein's post. He was fired in December after the department found he had violated multiple department policies, including using the racial slur in past Facebook posts.
An internal affairs investigation, released by the department last week, reveals new details into Jones' firing.
The Facebook posts, shown in the screen shots, included a racial slur offensive to black people, according to a department memo. The memo said Police Chief Kenton Buckner authorized an internal investigation after reviewing the screen shots. Jones is black.
In an internal affairs interview, Jones said she was quoting from rappers in the posts that contained the racial slur and had made the posts in 2009, when she was 16 years old, according to the memo.
Little Rock-based attorney Robert Newcomb, who is representing Jones, wrote in a letter to Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter that Jones' firing "clearly" seemed to be an overreaction.
In Jones' termination letter, Buckner wrote that her firing came "as a result of you having a post on your open Facebook page containing comments that could be perceived as offensive and derogatory after being hired by our Department."
Further, he wrote that Jones failed to remove "the post" after being ordered to by supervisors.
In December, Buckner sent a departmentwide memo warning officers that use of discriminatory or derogatory language was a "severe violation" and could result in termination.
"Please keep in mind that the use of such language, whether written (social media) or verbal, could impact your career," Buckner wrote.
Capt. Marcus Paxton, in a Jan. 5 memo to Buckner, wrote that Jones did not follow orders to remove all slurs or potentially offensive language from her social media. In the letter, he also said it was apparent that the Facebook post in question was not created to be derogatory.
"The issue here is not one of reality, but one of perception," Paxton wrote. "As a police officer, we must avoid the perception that we are biased against one race or another. This Facebook post has come under public scrutiny. Without any explanation, it would appear that a recruit with this department had made an insensitive and derogatory racial statement. While this would not be reality, it is the perception."
Newcomb has said his client had made an attempt to clean up her social media after the memo.
Buckner wrote in the termination letter that Jones, as a probationary employee, does not have "any rights of appeal in this matter."
Metro on 02/13/2018
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