February 8, 2014

To the Editor:

The issue of “freedom of speech” for uniformed police and firemen is more complex than for other citizens (“Barely Taking a Breath, de Blasio Says ‘Nyet,’” by Paul Schindler, Feb. 5) Their right to “protected speech” is limited to speech that does NOT interfere with the harmonious functioning of their services. This especially applies to police officers, who are considered to be paramilitary, not civilians. There is a strong prohibition against the military voicing political opinions, a limitation designed to prevent military coups, which are a regular occurrence in many other countries.

One of the types of speech that is most clearly included in “unprotected” speech is racism. Even privately expressed racism, such as posts on Facebook, by police officers is considered unprotected speech and may result in dismissal because it destroys unit cohesion and the harmonious functioning of the service. While not technically illegal, officers voicing bigotry risk their employment. Bigotry against LGBT people should be included in the category of “unprotected speech” as would hate speech and exclusion of any other minority group. This should especially apply to officers in uniform, representing their service. Behavior in uniform should be impeccable, as it expresses group stance on an issue, not an individual opinion — a major distinction.

De Blasio should carefully re-evaluate his knee-jerk “respect” for the rights of uniformed officers to march with a group that is clearly, overtly discriminatory. If uniformed officers marched in their units with a group of hooded KKK members on Fifth Avenue, would that pass muster? I think not.

Jay Kallio




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