A Springfield police officer is off the job after calling an alderperson a "f——— idiot" on Facebook. A release from the Springfield Police Department said it is "aware of the inappropriate and unprofessional comments made by one of its members on social media directed at Alderman Shawn Gregory and Alderwoman Doris Turner."
According to a screenshot shared with city officials and Illinois Times, a Facebook user named Andy Barnes criticized the city council members after they raised concerns over local enforcement of the stay-at-home order. The police department’s release did not name the officer.
Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow said the officer was under investigation and the cop had been "reassigned" after the department was made aware of a social media post from earlier in the week. He said in the release, "Due to this being a personnel matter, there will be no further comment at this time for the Springfield Police Department Administration."
Mayor Jim Langfelder offered words of support for Gregory, Turner and the police department. In the release sent Friday evening, he said, "Each and every one of us should realize that words matter, especially during these stressful times."
During Tuesday's city council meeting, Gregory and other city council members questioned why mostly white rally-goers hadn't met police resistance after defying and protesting public health measures. Meanwhile, gatherings of black people had been dispersed.
“The feeling right now in my community is well, dang, our police officers come and block off the streets for people who ain't even from Springfield," said Gregory. He was referencing how mostly white ralliers were escorted through city streets by police during a demonstration last week. Gregory said he didn’t agree with any gatherings that defied mandates, but felt enforcement was inconsistent along racial lines. Winslow has said protesting is a constitutional right.
On Facebook, Barnes wrote that Gregory was a “f——— idiot” and that police had responded to incidents where people blocked city streets with their vehicles. "They have thrown objects at officers. So Shawn instead of criticizing the officers take you (sic) ass outside and witness these insane crowds. This is a public safety issue as emergency vehicles can not get down the roads in an emergency situation."
Barnes also referenced Turner, saying in a comment under his original post: "So we will send them all to Doris’ block to party. Done deal." It’s unclear what the comment was in response to. Both Tuner and Gregory are black and represent parts of the east side.
Springfield activist Deborah Bandy called the comments by the police officer racist, and wrote to city officials, "This type of behavior is reprehensible by anyone and even more so by those who are given public trust to evenly uphold our laws for all people, no matter their race. These comments should never be made, and especially not during the time where another black man was senselessly killed by a police officer in Minneapolis."
Springfield Leaks also posted the social media comments and attributed them to police officer Andrew Barnes.
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