Fall River, MA – A Fall River police captain was suspended for 30 days without pay after he accidentally posted criticism of George Floyd to the department’s official Facebook page.
Fall River Police Captain Jay Huard, a 25-year veteran of the police force, was the department’s public information officer on April 20 when a Hennepin County jury 1,400 miles away found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of Floyd’s murder, The Herald News reported.
The post was a screenshot of a comment posted to a popular law enforcement community Facebook page and Capt. Huard shared it.
“Chauvin immediately stood and calmly placed his hands behind his back. Imagine where we’d be had George done the same,” the post read.
Capt. Huard said he meant to post the screenshot to his personal Facebook page but made a mistake and posted it to the Fall River Police Department’s official page instead, The Herald News reported.
The post was removed just moments after it was posted, but not before angry community members had seen it and captured the image.
A firestorm of criticism erupted and Fall River Police Chief Jeffrey Cardoza launched an investigation into the incident, The Herald News reported.
The police department apologized quickly for the mistake but that wasn’t enough to satisfy the community.
So Chief Cardoza commissioned an independent investigation by Liberty Forensics and a panel of four investigators from that company investigated and recommended the captain’s suspension, The Herald News reported.
Capt. Huard was also transferred out of the Fall River Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards permanently and removed from his position as the force’s public information officer (PIO) tasked with dealing with the media.
Chief Cardoza released a 15-page investigatory report that outlined the investigation that had been conducted, The Herald News reported.
The report said investigators had interviewed more than a dozen current and former Fall River police officers.
They also interviewed Capt. Huard and Chief Cardoza, The Herald News reported.
Capt. Huard told investigators that he had been using his cell phone during his lunch break when he inadvertently posted to the police department’s official page.
The report said that the captain was “visibly upset, his voice shaking at times, with tears in his eyes” when he was interviewed by investigators, The Herald News reported.
A transcript of the interview showed that Capt. Huard said he saw the initial post right after Chauvin was found guilty and “it jumped out at me and the emotion kicked in.”
“I want peace in this world. I want peace in this country,” he told investigators. “I’ve been a police officer for twenty-five years. The last two years have been very negative and I feel that we’re under attack and it weighs heavy on me.”
“Because I know in my twenty-five years, I’ve poured every ounce of my soul into this job, sometimes putting this job ahead of my family,” he explained.
Capt. Huard said his post was “insensitive and it was ignorant” and acknowledged it lacked empathy, The News Herald reported.
But the report also said that Capt. Huard had an unblemished disciplinary record prior to the accidental Facebook post and had received no citizen complaints in 25 years of serving the community.
The report said that former and current co-workers and supervisors described the former PIO as a “very fair, respectful person who treats people with dignity,” The Herald News reported.
“Based solely on the above interviews as well as all the information provided by the Fall River Police Department, Liberty Forensics did not find any evidence to indicate that Captain Jay Huard holds any bias towards minorities,” the report read.
Chief Cardoza said he had taken the recommendations of the investigators with regard to discipline for Capt. Huard, The Herald News reported.
He also said his officers had already been doing additional training for de-escalation methods, crisis intervention for the mentally ill, and “fair and impartial policing, but had learned from the report that “I have more work to do.”