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Cambridge police lieutenant investigated over ‘deeply disturbing’ tweets

Cambridge police are investigating tweets sent from an officer's account.
Cambridge police are investigating tweets sent from an officer's account.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Cambridge police are investigating a lieutenant accused of posting what department officials called “deeply disturbing” statements on his Twitter account, a department spokesman confirmed.

The officer, Lieutenant Shawn Lynch, has been with the department for about 20 years but off active duty since May for reasons unrelated to the investigation, police spokesman Jeremy Warnick said Wednesday. He declined to elaborate.

The account, @CPD496, is no longer online. The news website Cambridge Day captured some of the tweets, which said Black Lives Matter protesters are “a Marxist organization whose members openly call for the murder of law enforcement officers,” and calling Democrats “American Jihadists.”

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Investigators confirmed the account did belong to Lynch, but the case is still open, Warnick said.

“While the department recognizes that employees have a right to free speech under the First Amendment, the department will not tolerate statements that are inflammatory, discriminatory, and/or disrespectful to any individuals, races, or ethnicities that are linked in any way to an officer’s employment as a Cambridge police officer,” department officials said in a statement. “Statements such as those alleged to have been made violate the public trust that the department has rigorously taken pride in building, which can cause immeasurable damage to that trust, and they will not be tolerated.”

Neither the Police Department nor the city monitor officers' personal social media accounts, Warnick said. But if residents notice online activity from a member of the Police Department that they find inappropriate, “we certainly want to be notified, like we were in this case,” Warnick said.

John Robbins, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Massachusetts branch, said the tweets left him concerned.

“We’re concerned about the officer’s crude and stereotyped reference to Islam, which may well carry over into his . . . interactions with Muslim residents of Cambridge,” Robbins said in a statement. “In addition, we condemn his . . . racist language and attempt to create a false equivalency between the Black Lives Matter movement and white supremacists.”

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In May, Cambridge police Superintendent Jack Albert posted a tweet from the department’s official account calling US Representative Joe Kennedy III "Another liberal (expletive) jerk who just happens to be better then the clown he’s running against. Sad for us.”

Albert later apologized, saying he took responsibility and had sent the tweet “in a moment of heated political debate with friends." Department officials said he would face disciplinary action, though they did not say what the action would be, in accordance with state law. He remains on the job.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the subject of a May tweet. It was US Representative Joe Kennedy III.


Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com or at 617-929-2043.