REDBROWARD obtained a June 2015 public records request for Fort Lauderdale Police Department emails containing homophobic and racial slurs. Broward Chief Assistant State Attorney Jeff A. Marcus submitted a list of nine slurs to a Fort Lauderdale Police Department (FLPD) attorney. The requests followed the March 2015 firing of four FLPD officers for sending racist text messages and images.
In April, the Broward SAO dismissed felony cases involving the four FLPD officers. “All the defendants were black; all the cases were dropped because at least one of the officers was the principal officer involved in the arrest,” said Ron Ishoy, a spokesman for the Broward State Attorney’s Office. “This is a serious matter. We continue to review each case in which these former policemen were the principal officers involved in the arrest. We are dropping charges against the defendants where it is appropriate.”
In a telephone interview with REDBROWARD, Marcus stated the public records request was made following discussions with FLPD officials. While the March 2015 firings dealt with slurs used against African-Americans, Marcus claims an LGBT group filed complaints with the FLPD. He claims he reviewed a list of fifty slurs submitted by the unnamed LGBT group before settling on the three included in the records request.
Marcus stated the vast majority of the records obtained in the search contained “appropriate” uses of the words—police reports, witness statements etc. He states he found just one inappropriate email communication. Marcus stated he turned over his findings to FLPD.
The willingness of local police leaders and other law enforcement officials to launch a wide-reaching search of all employees’ communications based upon hunches by the public is the classic slippery slope. Of course, employers have the right to monitor employees emails. But here, the normal supervisory process did not uncover specific transgressions by specific employees.
Instead, an advocacy group made blanket claims about wrong doing and a skittish political class, stung by bad publicity, decided to make a preemptive strike.
Marcus claims only one inappropriate case was found. But what happens when they cast the next wide net? Who decides what words are bad and which are good?