A Florida police organization's promise to hire any officers around the U.S. who are fired or who leave their jobs during the nationwide uprising over police brutality was decried by critics Tuesday as indicative of a toxic law enforcement community that rewards severe misconduct.
The Brevard County Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) posted two messages on Facebook Saturday urging officers in Buffalo, New York; Atlanta; and Minneapolis to consider finding new jobs in Florida where the union claimed they won't have to face so-called "spineless leadership."
The messages were apparent references to incidents in the three cities during the recent protests over George Floyd's killing and racial injustice.
In Buffalo, 57 officers resigned in protest after two of their colleagues were suspended for forcefully pushing a 75-year-old man at a demonstration and then walking past him as his head began bleeding on the sidewalk.
The officers said their mass resignation was due to concerns that their union wouldn't "legally back" officers in such cases. They claimed they didn't resign in support of the two officers, who were charged with felony assault, but many Buffalo officers showed up at a courthouse on Saturday to support the men when they were arraigned.
The Brevard County FOP also urged members of the so-called "Atlanta Six" — six officers who were arrested including five who were charged with felonies after dragging a black couple from their car during a protest last week.
"We got your back!" the union wrote to the Buffalo and Atlanta police officers.
"Just what we all need," tweeted TV producer Lou DiBella in response. "Systemic racism in action."
Numerous recent studies have shown how police officers who are held accountable for misconduct — including injuring or killing civilians — are often rehired by their own departments or by departments in other cities and towns soon after.
The Washington Post revealed in 2017 that 450 out of nearly 1,900 officers fired by the nation's largest departments since 2006 were reinstated following legal appeals required by police unions.
A report in theYale Law Journal in April found that an average of 1,100 officers working in Florida each year have been previously fired. Officers who lose their jobs tend to move on to communities of color at agencies with fewer resources.
The Brevard County FOP also appealed to officers in Minneapolis, where a veto-proof majority on the city council voted over the weekend to replace the police department with "a holistic model of public safety." The vote came less than two weeks after Floyd's killing.
"We will not disband our law enforcement agencies or give in," the Brevard County FOP wrote.
The Brevard County sheriff's department said the posts did not reflect the views of county law enforcement officials and that the FOP is not in a position to recruit officers.
But critics on social media said the posts reflected a police culture in which officers — and current methods of policing — are protected at all costs.
"This is the problem," tweeted ESPN reporter Sarah Spain.