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Law professor explains freedom of speech guidelines for peace officers

BCSO deputy could lose job for suggesting rioters, looters should be killed

SAN ANTONIO – A Bexar County Sheriff's Office jail deputy has been placed on administrative leave after Sheriff Javier Salazar says the deputy suggested protesters who are rioting and looting should be killed.

The post didn't mention any plans to cause harm to anyone, and it was made from the deputy's personal social media account, but a St. Mary’s School of Law professor, Geary Reamey, said that doesn't matter.

BCSO deputy on administrative leave after making ‘troubling Facebook post’ about riots, Salazar says

Reamey said the boundaries were crossed when the deputy made the inflammatory post.

“You know that as a peace officer, you're always going to be identified in that role,” Reamey said.

Reamey said wearing the badge means you forfeit some of your rights to speak freely, especially when it comes to suggesting unfit punishments for crimes.

“A peace officer would not be justified … in using deadly force to stop somebody, for example, from looting or from committing a theft or from participating in a riot,” Reamey said.

On the other hand, peace officers must also exercise restraint when civilians provoke them verbally, no matter how offensive the statement, Reamey said.

“Verbal provocation is never a justification for the use of either deadly force or non-deadly force,” he said.

Salazar said the deputy’s status will remain in place until the matter is thoroughly investigated and until discipline is administered, with termination as a possible punishment.

Statement by Sheriff Javier Salazar A very troubling Facebook post was brought to my attention, which appears to have...

Posted by Bexar County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, June 4, 2020

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