Thursday, November 6, 2014

Offend the Police -- Lose Your Job

How police deal with "customer" complaints.
(See clarification below.)

 When an employee in the productive sector offends the company's customer base, he can expect to the censured, sanctioned, or sacked. Customers who complain about such an employee can expect that their opinions will be listened to politely and respectfully. After all, the owners of the company are vividly aware that the public can take its business elsewhere, so retaining their loyalty is a compelling priority.

By way of contrast, when a police officer employed in the coercive sector alienates the public through misconduct or criminal abuse, the offended “customers” are treated with suspicion and hostility. The public will be told to accommodate the police officer’s behavior, and the “customers” will be sternly reminded of their duty to render unconditional loyalty to the agency employing the miscreant.

Since law enforcement cannot go out of “business,” it doesn't have to worry about public disaffection. The role of police is to distribute violence on behalf of the political class, which is the only clientele they have to please. When a police department is informed of officer misconduct, the institutional priority is to discredit the aggrieved “customers,” rather than to listen to their complaints.

Unlike an employee in the productive sector, a police officer who provokes public criticism is likelier to be promoted rather than terminated. In some jurisdictions, a citizen who files a complaint against an abusive cop can face official retaliation, or even criminal prosecution for filing a “false report” if the complaint is dismissed, which happens in most cases.  

As Shawn Peterson has learned, a citizen who uses social media to criticize police abuses can find himself – and his employer – on the receiving end of orchestrated vilification by the police.

Because he criticized the police on his personal Facebook page, Peterson wound up being fired from his job as a cook at Leslie's Family Tree diner in Santaquin, Utah, in which he provided a worthier public service than any of his tax-devouring antagonists. His termination had nothing whatsoever to do with his job performance; the café’s owners acted in self-preservation after police across the country started an online campaign to drive down the business’s ratings in social media review sites.

Like millions of other Americans, Peterson is alarmed and disgusted by the overt militarization of law enforcement and the impunity enjoyed by police when they kill, assault, or otherwise victimize innocent people. Giving what he now considers improvident expression to his frustration, he posted a Facebook comment containing a photograph of a uniformed figure sprawled in a pool of blood with a caption reading: “This is what a good cop looks like.”
The comment was quickly noticed by members of police organizations that patrol social media in search of reasons to take offense. Cops made screenshots of the comment, learned of Peterson's employment at Leslie's Family Tree, and began to barrage the restaurant's Facebook page with hostile comments in a coordinated campaign to pressure the owner into firing Peterson.

Within a few days, recounts the Salt Lake Tribune, “the café’s Facebook rating began to plummet as negative reviews poured in” from across the country. Acting out of tribal solidarity, and exercising their well-established propensity for habitual lying, some of the police officers who commented on the restaurant’s Facebook page spread rumors that Peterson was poisoning the food.

Leslie Broadhead, owner of the family-operated restaurant, called Peterson in a panic. Displaying courage and character rarely if ever displayed by a cop, Peterson acted on behalf of the interests of his employer, telling Broadhead that “The only way we’re going to be able to solve this is if you fire me.”

The owner agreed, and shortly thereafter posted a contrite announcement to the company’s Facebook page that read like a public confession wrung from a Soviet dissident during the Moscow Show Trials:

“We are disgusted to hear the opinions of our FORMER employee. Fortunately we live in a country that gives us freedom of speech. Unfortunately it can also hurt people who are innocent. … We do respect our law enforcement and appreciate all the work and sacrifices you make to keep us safe.”

In addition to terminating her loyal employee for an opinion he had expressed on his own time, Broadbent offered free meals to law enforcement officers, who – as members of the tax-devouring class – already dine at the expense of others.

That gesture didn’t earn the approval of Utah resident Cindy Moss, the aunt of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt, who was recently gunned down by police in Saratoga Springs.

At the time, Hunt was carrying a replica sword. The officers who murdered him, reciting from the familiar catechism of self-justification, claimed that they acted to prevent “harm” to bystanders, none of whom was in any way alarmed or threatened by Hunt. In similar fashion, the officers claimed that Hunt had “lunged” at them with the sword – yet somehow managed to be shot six times in the back.

The police account was predictably dishonest, self-contradictory, and inconsistent with both witness testimony and physical evidence – and it was just as predictably ratified by the Utah County DA’s office, which ruled the murder a “justifiable homicide.” In addition to avoiding prosecution, Hunt’s killers can now stop by Leslie’s Family Tree diner for a free meal anytime they please. Such are the perks of being part of the killer elite.

“My sister still hasn’t been able to pay for her son’s funeral,” complained Moss in a message to Broadhead, “and you are giving a free meal to the guys who killed her son because they were cowards and created the death of an innocent man!”

The same offer is open to the SWAT operatives who recently killed Jose Calzada after the dejected resident of Roy, Utah called a suicide prevention hotline. The Weber County Attorney’s Office is treating the killing as a case of “suicide-by-cop.”

The officers who killed Hunt and Calzada are on paid vacation, which means they have plenty of time to visit Leslie’s Family Tree and get a free steak dinner. Peterson, who expressed his outrage over such insouciant, privileged violence in an admittedly ill-advised fashion, is scraping to get by while looking for a new job.

After Peterson was fired, the restaurant’s Facebook page, which had been cluttered with hateful and threatening comments from police officers, was similarly littered with messages of triumphant approval.

“You did the right thing getting rid of him,” gloated Officer Joseph Valdora. “Thanks for supporting the folks who keep us all safe” – “all,” that is, except for Darrien Hunt, Jose Calzada, and others whose names are inscribed in the ever-growing roster of innocent police victims.

“I commend and appreciate Leslie’s [sic] in taking the appropriate action and terminating Shawn Peterson,” wrote Randy Rogers, a “Texas Peace Officer.”

“We do indeed live in a great country that affords us great freedoms,” declared “a Southern California LEO.” “These freedoms do not, however, exempt us from accountability when we choose to exercise them recklessly.”

“Very happy to see that Leslie’s Family Tree has decided to protect itself from its own employee,” remarked Officer David Cobb. “She did `the right thing,’ and has shown everyone that while freedom of speech is essential to us all, Leslie has demonstrated that there are consequences for one’s actions.”

Of course, every police officer claims to be endowed with “qualified immunity,” the purpose of which is to protect himself from the “consequences of [his] actions” when they result in actual injury to an innocent person. While Peterson’s Facebook post could properly be described as offensive, it inflicted no demonstrable injury to anybody – apart from wounding the unwarranted pride that police officers feel in their disreputable profession.

One of the comments condemning Peterson, and commending his boss for firing him, was posted by Ed Diaz, a retired New Jersey police sergeant who used his own Facebook page to post a meme celebrating the shooting death of Michael Brown. The photo displayed a barroom sign beneath a Coors Light logo advertising the “Michael Brown special – 6 shots for $12.00”

People in the racket called “law enforcement” consider the reckless exercise lethal force by police to be a public service, but the uninhibited exercise of free speech in criticizing their profession to be a crime.

“This is absolutely disgusting,” wrote Christine Heathman on the diner’s Facebook page. “Shawn’s behavior is a threat to law enforcement and he should be fired and if we’re lucky he should go to jail.”

Apparently, the bold and valiant badasses who supposedly risk their incomparably valuable lives to hold criminal violence at bay require protection against nasty Facebook comments.

There is actually a precedent, of sorts, for prosecuting someone for online criticism of the police. Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of Thomas Smith, who had been charged by an exceptionally inventive prosecutor with “disorderly conduct and unlawful use of a computerized communication system.” Smith’s supposed crime was referring to police in the tiny town of Arena, Wisconsin as “f*****g racist bastards.”

Rather than considering the strong possibility that Smith’s assessment was correct, a jury quickly convicted him following a perfunctory trial. The appeals court sensibly ruled that while Smith’s remarks were uncouth, they didn’t constitute a “true threat” or “fighting words” under existing precedents that supposedly justify an exception to First Amendment protections. Despite the fact that his conviction was vacated, Smith was still abducted at gunpoint, shackled, fingerprinted, caged, and forced to endure a lengthy and expensive legal ordeal – and is left with an arrest on his record that will probably cloud his employment prospects – because he had offended the tender sensibilities of armed “public servants” who threaten and exercise violence as an occupation.

Shawn Peterson is not the first person gainfully employed in the productive sector to be fired as the result of a social media campaign by police targeting his employer.

Ashley Warden and son Dillan.

Ashley Warden lost her job as a waitress at an Oklahoma City Chili’s restaurant in May 2013 following an anti-police Facebook post – a photo of sheriff’s deputies with the comment,
“Stupid cops better hope I’m not their server FDP.” The restaurant fired Warden following a social media pressure campaign of the sort that later led to the termination of Shawn Peterson from his job.

“This is what she posts and what she chooses to post during Law Enforcement Week when we are honoring those who have died in service to our citizens – I think that’s pathetic,” pouted Sheriff John Whetsel, who claimed that Warden had “threatened” his officers. Warden “doesn’t have a clue about who they are or what they do or the service they provide,” Whetsel continued. 

As it happens, Warden’s appropriately contemptuous view of law enforcement was informed by the “service” provided by Piedmont Police Officer Ken Qualls, who wrote her a $2,500 ticket for “public urination” after her 3-year-old son tried to relieve himself in the family’s front yard.

The Warden family resides on a two-and-a-half acre plot in a small, rural town. When Dillan, the toddler, pulled down his pants, Qualls – who had been lurking nearby – screamed up to the home in his cruiser and announced to that he was issuing a citation, despite the fact that the child hadn’t actually completed the act.

As disgruntled “customers” of the “service” Qualls provided, the Wardens contacted his employer, who said, in essence, “Sucks to be you.” After the family informed the media of what had happened, the ticket was dismissed. A few days later, Qualls was fired by the town council – not for what he had done to the Warden family, of course, but because of negative press coverage his behavior had attracted to the city government. That is to say, he was fired because he offended the only clientele he was expected to please.

No risk of starvation: Qualls.
Qualls had spent 18 years as a police officer – and already qualified for a pension -- which means that he most likely has never had an honest job and wasn’t facing destitution, however much he deserves it.

Unlike Shawn Peterson, who acted on behalf of his employer, Qualls displayed the bottomless self-preoccupation that typifies his profession by filing a lawsuit against Police Chief Alex Oblein and the City of Piedmont. In doing so he acted on the assumption that he had a property right in a well-compensated and stress-free job as a practitioner of state-licensed violence.


In the original version of this essay, I relayed the Salt Lake Tribune's mistaken account of Shawn Peterson's Facebook comment. He did not post the offending photo to his Facebook page, nor did he tag the restaurant's Facebook page: He posted a comment on a thread that was critical of police abuse; that comment was noticed by cops who learned where Peterson worked and decided to punish him by blackmailing his employer into firing him. This is Stasi-caliber thuggishness, which is pretty much what we should expect from those people.

I did contact Mr. Peterson a few days ago, but at the time he was understandably reluctant to discuss the matter in detail. What actually happened was much worse than the version I originally described -- and shows the extent to which police are scrutinizing their critics, and the lengths to which they are willing to go in order to punish them.

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Dum spiro, pugno!


Anonymous said...

I wonder if someone can make a case for this guy- tortious interference. According to the Wickipedia article the requirement of a contractual relationship

"in employment-at-will jurisdictions, be held fulfilled in regards to a previously unterminated employer/employee relationship ..."

Maybe the Institute of Justice or someone might be interested. Basicallly it's no business of the police or anyone other than his employer that this guy works at this restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Tagging personal opinions to a business facebook page, that do not relate to the operation of the business, should be avoided. Tagged friends with similar opinions on any given issue are normal facebook interaction. Of course, the police around the nation were wrong in hazing the restaurant, for something they were not responsible for. The restaurant should have taken the issue up with facebook, and treated the offending police like spammers. Of course the restaurant could have sued individual police officers for harassment, as some other companies and web sites have done to people who gave false reviews.

Rich said...

It is bootlickers like Leslie Broadhead that enable the police state we live in.

NY Cynic said...

Exactly right Rich, whether that boot licker is some idiotic Obamunist or your run of the mill badge licking "law and order" conservative its the same. Both are the reasons why the US is an authoritarian society.

JdL said...

Another excellent column, Will. I did notice a slight typo: "Leslie Broadhead, owner of the family-operated restaurant, called Broadhead in a panic." I'm guessing she called Peterson?

iamyou said...

I need to clarify in this situation. I am mr. Peterson. I did not tag the business in the meme that values all this nor put it on my personal fb page. I shared ie as a comment and it went from there. It was members of a police only group that took screenshots and attacked the business with those screenshots. And no I called them and suggested they fire me to protect them, which they did. I regret defending them to because after four years of busting my ass not one of them defended the person I really am. They just want the business

Unknown said...

Seems to me that before yr statute of limitations runs you should see a lawyer who specializes in wrongful discharge cases, and possiblly violation of your civil rights.
Bill Cook

Bill in IL said...

Firing you and then offering up FREE meals to these low life cretins is beyond the pale. We should start slamming her restaurant on FB again, this time lambasting both her and the oinks.

Mark said...

So much for free speech in a de facto police state. To Americans who wonder what a police state would look like I say, "Just step outside your front door and look around."

Bob said...

What de-facto police state? All militarization and federalizaion of local "law enforcement" must be abolished.

Anonymous said...

This is conduct of the cops is likely illegal and they maybe could be held to civil lawsuits. If so, they then could likely be sued in a class action RICO lawsuits. The government level that they work for would not be part of the lawsuits because they did this on their own time. If by chance they did the Facebook postings on government time. They likely may have criminally misused government property and time for personal use. And if so they should be fired and criminally be charged.
Let them pay for their own lawyers and pay the cost of the lawsuits. My hunch is this will remove a lot of bad apples across the country. This is bad stuff and needs to strongly be stopped.

rkshanny said...

Hey Bob 11/8 12:39: I'll call ya and raise ya one. All govt. law enforcement must be abolished . . . period! Standing monopoly military and police forces have been long and well argued against. The free, voluntary, consensual and competitive marketplace can do anything that needs to be done in the security, investigative, and adjudication fields far more competently and efficiently and humanely, on behalf of actual voluntary customers, than can a gaggle of incompetent, hierarchical, bureaucratic, politicized, low-moderate-IQ enforcement whackos. The greatest percentage of "law enforcement" is not for actual crimes against persons and property (mala in se), but for political enforcement of insane collectivist prohibitions, revenue-extraction for 1000's of PC victimless non-crime infractions (see bush/billboard-lurkers with intentionally mis-calibrated radar guns and breathalyzers, for example) and myriad other mala prohibita control and revenue schemes. Remove all the artificial political enforcement the porcine louts perform, and their so-called "jobs", as they are nothing but irrelevant, herd-controlling (that would be us!), murdering, thieving brigands...utterly inimical to the concept of free men.

Anonymous said...

If this has been publicized earlier it might have attracted customers. As someone who gave George Zimmerman money, publicing your unfair treatment could actually work for you.

Women Fired For Anti- Military Comments Made on Facebook…Did The Military Community Go To Far Or Did She?

Anonymous said...

"Those who would rule with an iron fist always fear the free expression of opinions by those they would suppress." -- Neal Boortz

liberranter said...

Sadly, there are plenty of cop-sucking restauranteurs out there like Shawn's former employer. On more than one occasion over the last few years, I have turned around and walked away from the front doors of these places as soon as I saw the "Sponsor of FOP Chaper #####" or some other such indicator that ownership is a worshiper of fascist violence. It would be wonderful to believe that negative publicity generated by this incident would drive this diner out of business. Alas, from what I know about Utah, fascism-worship is the state's second largest religion after Mormonism, so it's more likely that business is better than ever.

Shawn, I sincerely hope that other job offers are coming your way. If I were in the restaurant business I would not only hire you on the spot, but would even offer to pay your relocation expenses. Do also consider taking the advice others here have given and find an attorney who specializes in wrongful termination lawsuits. I'm no expert in law, but it appears to me that you have a good case.

Godspeed and best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know who rules you, find out who it is that you are not allowed to criticize.