Officers Web Site Content Stirs Furor (Picture) Mar 29, 2006 10:21:19 GMT -5
Post by WaTcHeR on Mar 29, 2006 10:21:19 GMT -5
Officer Joshua Cromer
03/29/2006 - Several Lexington police officers face disciplinary action for comments and photos they posted on the popular Web site MySpace.com, in which the officers discussed their jobs, commented on arrests they had made and used derogatory language about gays and the mentally disabled.
On one officer's site on MySpace.com, some Lexington officers openly discussed the recent arrest of country music star John Michael Montgomery, who was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol when he was pulled over by Officer Joshua Cromer in February.
Those comments appeared on Cromer's MySpace page, some of them congratulating Cromer for the arrest. His site also included an altered photograph -- posted there by another officer -- of Montgomery and a fan in which Cromer's face had been placed on the body of the fan. An attorney for Montgomery last night said he was "just appalled" at the web postings.
On other pages, all located on MySpace.com, officers say they work for the "snobby people of Lexington" or the "Lexington Fayette Urban Communist Government." They call each other gay and make fun of the mentally disabled. Many of the pages feature Lexington police badges, police cars or photos of the officers in uniform.
Police Chief Anthany Beatty said several officers were told last night that they will probably face internal administrative charges because of the MySpace postings. He would not say what the punishment might be, but said discipline can include anything from a written reprimand to suspension to termination.
Beatty shook his head yesterday as he flipped through printouts of four officers' sites on MySpace. The sites were created by Cromer, an officer since 2002; Richard Cole Sisk, an officer since 1999; Gene Haynes, an officer since 2001; and Aaron Richard Noel, who has been on the force for two years.
The four officers could not be reached for comment yesterday or did not return phone messages from the Herald-Leader.
Beatty said the police department -- with the help of the Urban County Government law department -- immediately launched an internal investigation into the sites after officials were notified about two weeks ago of possible inappropriate content.
Beatty would not say how many officers are being investigated -- but he said there are "possibly more" than the four -- nor would he say which officers will be disciplined because the investigation is ongoing.
He said part of the police disciplinary code "indicates that you should not, as police officers, do anything or say anything or act in any way that would reflect negatively on the agency.
"We assure the citizens that we are thoroughly investigating and will take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation, when all the facts are in," Beatty said.
Although many of the officers' Web pages have been cleaned up or deactivated in recent days, there could be damaging effects.
Officials are particularly concerned about the effect of Cromer's site on the case against Montgomery, who is scheduled to be back in court in April on charges including DUI, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance.
The police department has notified judicial officials of the photo on Cromer's site, but no one could say yesterday what effect, if any, it might have on the case.
Montgomery's attorneys, Brent Caldwell and Jon Woodall, said yesterday that they had heard rumors about Cromer's site and the Montgomery photo. The attorneys are sending a subpoena to the operators of Myspace.com to obtain the photo since it is no longer on Cromer's site.
"We have had grave concerns from the first day of the arrest about the actions of this officer and the motivations in his arrest," Caldwell said. "We are frankly just appalled that a police officer would do something like that and just can't understand why he would do something like that."
The attorneys spoke with Montgomery yesterday about the photo and Cromer's site.
"Let's just say he wasn't very pleased about it," Woodall said. "There's so many good officers on the street, it is a shame that this officer is giving the department a black eye."
In addition to the Montgomery photo, Cromer's site included more general postings about his police work. In his biographical profile he identified himself as a Lexington police officer and said, "I love to lock a mother f----- up ..."
He also described an incident in which he wrote a ticket to a man who lives in his apartment complex because the man's car alarm woke him up. He then discovered the man had a warrant for unpaid tickets.
"Sorry ... don't take it personal, pay your f------ tickets and you won't have warrants," Cromer wrote.
Other officers' pages include crude images and comments.
At the top of Sisk's page, for example, he posted a photo of a mentally disabled child running in a race.
"What's better than winning the special olympics?" the photo read. "Not being retarded."
Bruce Edwards, a spokesman for Mayor Teresa Isaac, said last night that the mayor is aware of the police investigation. "It is being handled internally, and appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken if necessary," he said.
There are no Lexington police department policies specifying what sort of material officers may post on sites such as MySpace.com.
Beatty said the department will look at creating such a policy in light of these recent cases.
Still, officers know they must maintain a certain level of respect and professionalism, whether they're in public or on the Web, Beatty said.
"Specifically, they hear me say, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, economic status -- regardless of all the things that affect us in our lives -- the expectation is that everyone is treated with respect in every encounter that we have with them," Beatty said. "We preach that."
Asked yesterday whether he was disappointed, Beatty placed a hand to his lower lip and glanced down.
"Yes," he said softly.