Bend, OR – A Bend police officer is under investigation after a keychain he was carrying on duty on Saturday offended someone.
A picture of Bend Police Corporal Josh Spano on duty on May 1 was posted to social media and showed a keychain with the phrase “molon labe” sticking out of the pocket of his tactical vest, The Bulletin reported.
The phrase is Greek for “come and take them.”
It references an exchange the night before the Battle of Thermopylae when Persian King Xerxes ordered the Spartans to hand over their weapons and King Leonidas replied “molon labe.”
It is a popular military slogan used as a motto by the U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT).
The Greek First Army Corps also uses molon labe as their emblem.
More recently, it has become a popular slogan for supporters of the Second Amendment.
After the images of Cpl. Spano and his keychain circulated, somebody filed a complaint and the police chief launched an internal affairs investigation.
“I’m aware of the allegations posted around social media regarding one of our employees displaying an item that was inconsistent with our uniform, an item believed to be supportive of extremist ideologies,” Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz told The Bulletin.
Chief Krantz said an internal investigation had been launched because ideologies advocating for the overthrow of the U.S. government are not considered acceptable political beliefs for an officer to have.
“We stress there is no place in policing for extremism or violent ideologies,” the police chief told The Bulletin. “Those beliefs are incompatible with law enforcement.”
“Again, I don’t know if that’s what was going on in this case,” he added.
Warrior 12 is a patriotic apparel company which funds The Police Tribune, and the company features “molon labe” on several of their shirts.
Warrior 12 owner Joe Murphy, a former police officer, explained to The Police tribune that the pro-Second Amendment message is not anti-government or extremist.
“The phrase is common with gun owners who support their Constitutional right to bear arms,” Murphy explained. “You have to be beyond all reason to believe that supporting the Constitution is an anti-government belief.”
Murphy explained that anti-government extremists may use the phrase because they also like guns, but showing support for gun rights isn’t anti-government.
“Progressive logic would have you believe that if an extremist waves an American flag, then the American flag must be an extremist symbol,” Murphy said. “It’s easy to misunderstand something when you ignore context, which is why activists act like there’s no such thing as a justified police shooting.”
The Bend Police Department’s policy handbook says officers are prohibited from wearing unauthorized items on their uniforms, The Bulletin reported.
The uniform is meant to identify its wearer as a law enforcement officer and Bend police are not permitted to openly support political and social causes on duty.
Cpl. Spano told The Bulletin that the item in question is a keychain he has carried on duty for 13 years and said it has nothing to do with any extremist group.
“I support none of it,” he said. “And if it wasn’t for people defending against that we’d have a whole lot more disorder right now than we already do.”
Cpl. Spano said he carried they keychain to honor the oath he took when he joined the military.
The 35-year-old corporal was a U.S. Army combat medic who served in Iraq, The Bulletin reported.
Oregon police records showed he joined the Medford Police Department in 2008, transferred to Bend in 2015, and was promoted to corporal in 2019.
Cpl. Spano told The Bulletin that if the internal investigation determines he shouldn’t use the keychain on duty, he’ll switch it over to his personal keychain.
He recently applied to transfer to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and met with Sheriff Shane Nelson about it a few months ago, The Bulletin reported.
Bend Mayor Sally Russell said she was aware of the investigation into the keychain but cautioned people not to rush to judgement before it had been thoroughly explored.
“We should be cautious and not too quick to judge,” Russell told The Bulletin.