The officer who shared a Facebook post critical of George Floyd on the Fall River Police Department’s Facebook page has been transferred to a job with no public contact amid an outside investigation of the incident.
Police Chief Jeffrey Cardoza said the officer, who was not named, will have “in-house duties where he has no access to the public.”
The department was facing an uproar after the post appeared on its Facebook page following the guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was led away in handcuffs, his bail revoked, on Tuesday. The post, a screenshot of a tweet, said “Chauvin immediately stood and calmly placed his hands behind his back. Imagine where we’d be had George done the same.”
It was quickly deleted, but not before screenshots were shared on local Facebook groups. Cardoza said he had been in touch with the city’s mayor and had asked former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis, who now runs a security consulting firm, to send someone to investigate.
Cardoza reiterated Thursday that he was “extremely disappointed.”
“I think that when you take this position, as a police officer, you have a responsibility to maintain the public trust,” he said. “We as an organization are disappointed, and it’s not right, and we’re going to do everything we can to fix it.”
Cardoza said he also plans to bring in an outside organization to conduct anti-bias training with the department as a whole. “This has sort of opened my eyes” to bias in the department, he said.
The Facebook post came at a time when police departments are the target of reform efforts to address racial disparities in policing and change use-of-force policies after high-profile police killings of Black people. Chauvin was convicted Tuesday on all three counts of murder and manslaughter in the May 2020 killing of Floyd, a case that set off nationwide protests against police brutality.
The Rev. Darryl Malden of Bethel AME Church in Fall River said the Facebook post highlights the need for police reform, calling it “classic ‘blame the victim.’ ”
“It’s shocking and not so shocking, all at the same time, and this accentuates the need for police reform,” he said Thursday. “It shows the insensitivity of the police toward Black and brown communities.”
Malden said there needs to be fundamental changes in policing, from how Black and brown people are treated by law enforcement to how officers are held accountable for wrongdoing.
“Somebody needs to be held accountable for this,” Malden said.
In a statement on Facebook on Wednesday, the Police Department said the post about Floyd was shared in error by “personnel” who meant to post it to his own account and did not reflect the department’s opinion.
The post expressing regret quickly racked up hundreds of comments, many of which expressed anger about the original post and called for the person responsible to face discipline.
“I think it’s fair to say there’s a been a lot of blowback,” Cardoza said Thursday, as he asked for the people of Fall River to have confidence in him to make the right decisions.
In a statement Wednesday, Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan called the comments “unacceptable.”
“While the Fall River Police Department is full of great men and women who care deeply for our community, there is no place in the FRPD for an opinion like that shared today,” Coogan said in the statement. “The post, despite being intended for a personal page, contains beliefs completely incompatible with my hopes for the Fall River Police Department. Chief Jeff Cardoza has been diligently working to change the culture of the Fall River Police Department and I will personally be following up with the Chief to address lingering opinions like those shared today.”