An MBTA police officer is under investigation after she posted a photo to social media ridiculing a man who defecated on the floor of what appears to be a T station, officials said Sunday.
The officer, 31-year-old Ashley Carlson, an eight-year veteran of the transit system’s police force, allegedly posted on her Facebook page the photo of a man curled up on the floor in the fetal position. The man was lying beside a wheelchair with his pants down just above his knees.
“You think your job is [expletive]!!!” Carlson wrote on her Facebook page. “This is what we responded to this morning. This guy is well known to police and has a lengthy record. I don’t get paid enough to deal with this [expletive]... literally and figuratively!!!”
The officer’s comments regarding the man’s record could not be verified Sunday.
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police officials called the post “concerning” and said it was brought to their attention on Saturday.
“We are looking into it. It’s under investigation,” said Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan. “The transit police are held to the highest standards of professionalism – the public expects it and more importantly deserves it.”
Carlson, who made $64,917 last year according to MBTA police records, did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday. She has not been disciplined.
The MBTA Police Association did not return calls for comment.
Transit police were unable to provide more information on Sunday about the incident or the man in the photo. Sullivan said if the investigation proves that Carlson posted the image, part of the probe will seek to determine if she did so while on duty.
Civil rights leaders condemned the officer’s actions and called on the Transit Police Department to reinforce training and use of social media protocols.
“It is really disturbing to see this,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. “The MBTA police ... should have in place protocols and training for police officers so when they interact with members of the community, particularly with vulnerable populations, that they can treat individuals with dignity and respect in all encounters.”
Instead, Espinoza-Madrigal said, the man in the photo “is being humiliated by an individual, who should be protecting and serving him.”
Rahsaan Hall, an official at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said the officer’s actions were inappropriate and raises concerns about the officer’s integrity.
“It is absolutely deplorable that a public servant would expose a private individual on a social media platform in a humiliating and degrading way in violation of the trust given to law enforcement officers,” Hall said. “She clearly crossed the line.”
Carlson was suspended for a day roughly a year ago after she failed to respond to a call, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of her record.
Carlson is not the first MBTA police officer to be in the hot seat over posts made on social media. One officer was fired and another reassigned after other incidents in recent years.
A copy of the department’s social media policy was not immediately available Sunday.
But Espinoza-Madrigal said officers should be trained to deal with everyone within the communities they serve.
“There needs to be social media policy and training that is carried out to make sure officers can serve the community in a way that doesn’t bring these types of conscious or unconscious biases,” he said. “This is happening to individuals who are vulnerable. This population deserves just as much respect as anyone else in society.”