Court OKs Officer’s Firing for ‘Antagonistic’ Facebook Post

JACKSON, Miss. (CN) – The Mississippi Court of Appeals found a police officer’s Facebook post about his city’s black mayor and police chief was grounds for termination, even if he intended for the post to be funny, not racist.

Adam Meadors, a police officer for Meridian, Miss., was fired in 2013 for violating the department’s code of conduct when he posted a picture of two laughing chimpanzees with a caption referencing the city’s black mayor and police chief, court records show.

Meadors had posted the photo with a caption that said, “Earlier today, the mayor and the chief of police had a meeting.”

Before deleting the photo from his Facebook account minutes after posting it, he commented, “Something will probably be said, but I couldn’t resist.”

Meadors was fired 11 days later, but argued that the photo did not specifically reference Meridian’s mayor and police chief, and that his termination violated his right to free speech. He was on duty at the time the photo was posted but was on a meal break at home, according to court records.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals found last week that, “no matter his intent, Meadors’s posting was inherently racially insensitive and/or demonstrated insubordination toward his superiors.”

“Meadors’s termination over his Facebook post did not constitute a violation of his right to free speech,” Judge Donna M. Barnes wrote for the three-judge panel in its Dec. 6 opinion. “Meadors was not speaking on a matter of public concern, and his Facebook post could well have been viewed by the public as racist and by his superiors as ‘offensive or antagonistic.’”

Meadors had been with the department in Meridian, a city with a population of 41,000, since 2006.

His firing was initially upheld by the Meridian Civil Service Commission, but was reversed on appeal after the circuit court ruled that the mayor did not approve it.

The appeals court found that the circuit judge did not use the proper standard of review in that decision because the mayor had credibly testified that the police chief was designated to fire the officer.

“Further, the Commission heard the testimony, reviewed the evidence, and determined that there was cause for Meadors’s termination and ‘a good faith application of the disciplinary procedures,’” Barnes wrote.

Chief Judge L. Joseph Lee and Judge David M. Ishee rounded out the appeals court panel.

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