- Cullman, Alabama

May 24, 2013

Dothan board weighs officer's Facebook posts

Associated Press

DOTHAN, Ala. —

The Dothan Personnel Board expects to take at least two to three weeks to decide what could be a landmark case involving the use of social media by police.

The board held a four-hour hearing Thursday in the case of Cpl. Raemonica Carney. She turned to the board after she was suspended for 10 days without pay and put on probation for two years for Facebook posts that department officials saw as favorable to former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner. He was accused of killing four people, including two officers, before apparently killing himself in a burning cabin in February.

"She is being retaliated against now for having an unpopular belief. That is a violation of her First Amendment rights to free speech," said her attorney, Sonya Edwards of Birmingham.

City attorney Kevan Kelly said the Facebook postings disrupted the working order of the Dothan Police Department and prompted complaints from 13 officers.

The Dothan Eagle reported that Police Chief Greg Benton said, "It does not matter what kind of officer she was, what she posted was reprehensible, disgusting, it caused a general alarm within the department."

The posts indicated Carney believe Dorner was targeted for dismissal from the police department for pointing out a possible civil rights violation by a co-worker.

"You have to have walked in his shoes and experienced the things he experienced ... to know the things he is blowing the whistle on. I have. Have you?" Carney wrote on her Facebook page.

She also posted that based on what she had read about the case, Dorner's morals and ethics were "probably beyond reproach."

Carney said the posts were not supportive of Dorner's actions.

"I never said I supported, never said I agreed with what Dorner did. I never said I supported or said I disagreed with what the LAPD did. My personal opinion is that Mr. Dorner went about it the wrong way," she said at the hearing.

The Dothan Police Department's policy on social media says employees are free to express themselves as private citizens as long as their speech does not impair working relationships, performance or harmony with co-workers.