Police Officer Susan Graziosi, Fired For Facebook Criticism, Sues

It's customary that when a police officer is killed in the line of duty, the city sends a representative to the funeral. But when former Sgt. Susan Graziosi posted a complaint on her Facebook page, chiding the mayor for not sending someone to services for an officer from Pearl, Miss. Graziosi was fired, The Delta Democrat Times reports, and now she's suing for a violation of her free speech.

"Dear Mayor," Graziosi wrote on her Facebook page, according to the lawsuit, "can we please get a leader that understands that a department sends officers (to) the funeral of an officer killed in the line of duty?"

During an internal investigation on May 9, Graziosi (pictured above) reportedly was required to pull up her Facebook page. Police Chief Freddie Cannon fired her later that day. A document included in the suit states, under a City of Greenville letterhead, that Graziosi was fired for violations of discipline and accountability, insubordination and rules of conduct, as laid out in Greenville Police Department's policy and procedure manual.

Graziosi appealed her firing to Mayor Chuck Jordan, who recommended that the Greenville City Council back Cannon's decision. The council sided with Cannon and the mayor, and upheld Graziosi's firing.

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So Graziosi filed suit against the mayor, the police chief, and the city, alleging economic and emotional damages.

"Ms. Graziosi and I hope that the process of this lawsuit will serve as a good civics lesson to the mayor and the police chief about the limits of their power to punish city employees for speaking out to the community about communitywide issues," Graziosi's attorney, Jackson-based J. Brad Pigott, said. "We look forward to that lawsuit process and hope that it serves a constructive purpose."

Greenville is only the latest testing ground over whether behavior on social networking sites counts as free speech. Earlier this year, a Virginia federal judge ruled that "liking" a page on Facebook was "insufficient" to be protected speech, and so Deputy Sheriff Daniel Ray Carter was not wrongfully terminated when he "liked" the Facebook campaign page of his boss's opponent.

Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union disagreed, however, and their attorneys went to federal appeals court yesterday to make their case.

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"If Carter had stood on a street corner and announced, `I like Jim Adams for Hampton sheriff,' there would be no dispute that his statement was constitutionally protected speech," Facebook wrote in a friend of the court brief. A Facebook "like," the brief continued, is "the 21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign."

Nonetheless, dozens of individuals have been fired for comments or photographs on the world's largest social network: There's the pierogi mascot for the Pittsburgh Pirates who was fired in 2010 after he posted mocking comments about the team. There are the 13 Virgin airline crew members who were promptly dismissed in 2008 after insulting customers and noting which cabins were infested with cockroaches. And then there's the New England Patriots cheerleader who lost her job in 2008 after a photo surfaced of her, with Sharpie in hand, next to an unconscious person covered in phallic symbols, various words for penis, swastikas and the phrase "I am a Jew."

To avoid these potential pitfalls, however, employees shouldn't hastily unplug their Facebook accounts. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some employers are now suspicious of applicants who don't have one.

Reporting from The Associated Press also contributed to this story.

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Ahwwww....this poor wittle guy got his feeewings hurrrrt. Public officials with an ego seems to be rather prolific.

Show me any public official who has caused complete peace to break out (no violence anywhere), stopped all hunger (no child goes to be hungry), and/or rid us from all disease, and I'll show you a public official that DESERVES to have an ego. Otherwise, any sitting Mayor, Police Chief, etc. is just some disappointing shmuck temporarity filling a post till some other moron gets elected/appointed to keep the chair warm for a while.

August 14 2012 at 8:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Re: "Anecdotal evidence suggests that some employers are now suspicious of applicants who don't have one." So, you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't. Our forefathers MUST be rolling over in their graves daily as the freedoms they worked so hard to protect are, unwittingly, going to end-up leading to the demise of our great nation. CRITICAL freedoms are being trampled on, all in the name of someone ELSE'S freedom from getting their FEELINGS hurt. It's absurd.

August 12 2012 at 1:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
oh yea oh yea

Even though there are those who would like to see our wonderful USA become a socialist state, it is not! One's freedom of speech is guaranteed by the bill ofd rights. I do not agree with this officer's posting her feeling on Face Book but, she does have a right to do so, without being fired from her job. This police chief and the mayor goofed and they want to make someone else look bad instead of these who screwed up.

August 10 2012 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have not read their code of ethics but, I think she was well within her rights as a citizen. We need to allow people to speak freely in this country. Freedom of speach includes the opinions of our puplic officials. I want to know where people stand and what they think and what they want to share with the public. I want to be free. I don't want to live in a world of dictators.

August 09 2012 at 9:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a bunch of insecure sissies, mayor, police chief and council members who voted to fire. Lord knows what Graziosi posted is accurate. Wonder if Cannon and Jordan have more of a personal relationship? Hmmmmm!

August 09 2012 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dear headline writer. Sadly, Miss. is NOT the accepted abreviation for Mississippi. Try MS.
When will people learn the utter immaturity of using Facebook as a broadcaster of their every event and opinion?

August 09 2012 at 9:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sometimes its best not to speak your mind,right or wrong.

August 09 2012 at 8:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Shull.

It is stupid to post about employment on facebook no matter good or bad it is cause for termination.

August 09 2012 at 8:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

be careful of what and where you say or who you say it to, when it comes to your job. Not being able to pay your bills is a terrible price to pay for "your opinion"

August 09 2012 at 8:10 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Talk about not being able to take an ass triming! The chief needs to back to management school. Off the job is off the job. This guy is thin skinned and put his personal ego way out in front of common sense. Nothing here other than a repremand, private, reprimand at that and at most, a letter in the personnel file. Kick the chief in the ass and wake him up!

August 09 2012 at 7:39 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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