Milwaukee, WI – The Milwaukee police chief announced on Thursday that he had fired an officer involved in the controversial arrest of NBA player Sterling Brown after the officer made inappropriate social media posts.
Chief Alfonso Morales told an audience at Marquette University on Sept. 13 that the Milwaukee Police Department had terminated the employment of Officer Erik Andrade.
He explained that the social media posts about the Milwaukee Bucks player violated department policy, WISN reported.
“Nice meeting Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks at work this morning! Lol#FearTheDeer,” former-Officer Andrade posted on Facebook the day of the arrest.
There were also other posts that drew concern, according to WISN.
“A little truth to those who wanna listen,” then-Officer Andrade wrote above a meme he shared that said “Yes, whenever something happens it’s always a epidemic of racism, police brutality or whatever lies these failed liberal hand-picked so-called liberal black leaders come up with.”
Chief Morales explained how an officer can be held accountable by the police department for his off-duty social media posts.
“According to our Standard Operating Procedure, members are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media to the degree that their speech is not disruptive to the mission of the department,” Chief Morales told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a written statement.
“However, speech, on or off duty, pursuant to members’ official duties and professional responsibilities is not protected,” the chief wrote.
Brown filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Milwaukee PD in June. Then-Officer Andrade’s Facebook posts and “racist memes” were cited as evidence in his filings, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The former officer is one of the named defendants in the lawsuit.
The professional basketball player was arrested after an incident that began when a Milwaukee police officer stopped Brown as he was returning to his car in a Walgreen’s parking lot at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 26.
Brown’s Mercedes was parked across two handicapped parking spots, and the officer asked him why.
When Brown was told to take his hands out of his pockets, he failed to immediately comply, and officers quickly took him to the ground and deployed a Taser to bring him under control.
Police released bodycam videos of the arrest in May, and have faced extreme criticism about the use-of-force captured on the videos.
Shortly after the video was released to the public, then-Officer Andrade posted another message to Facebook that made department officials question his judgment.
“I hope JR Smith double parks in Walgreens handicap Parkin spots when he’s in Milwaukee!” he posted about a Cleveland Cavaliers player after the team lost the first game of the NBA Finals.
Chief Morales told the audience on Thursday that officers who use social media pull the police department into the discussions of everything they post. He said that as a result, the officers eventually had to answer for what they posted, according to WISN.
The chief said top Milwaukee PD officials felt that the content of former-Officer Andrade’s posts brought into question the officer’s credibility.
And he said that was a problem for current and future cases if the officer were to testify, WISN reported.
“It’s not a credibility issue saying the person lied, but at the end… it would be a circus by putting this person on the stand,” Chief Morales told WISN.
Later in the day, the chief issued a formal statement about the termination.
“According to our Standard Operating Procedure, members are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media to the degree that their speech is not disruptive to the mission of the Department.
However, speech, on or off duty, pursuant to members’ official duties and professional responsibilities is not protected. I find that Officer Andrade’s postings are in direct violation of such policy. They have a racist connotation and are derogatory, mocking an individual who was recently the subject of officers’ use of force.
Such comments also directly affect his credibility and ability to testify in future hearings as a member of this Department. I have not, and will not, tolerate such behavior.”