You may have read in the news recently about two Ohio police officers getting potentially fired over very racists texts to one another. One of which said, “I hate n******. That is all.” (I edited out the pejorative, as I prefer not to repeat it.)
Some people are crying out that this is a clear violation of those officer’s First Amendment free speech rights. But nothing could be further from the truth.
While I am the first to complain about our rights being violated every day, this particular claim is one born from a basic lack of understanding regarding our Constitution.
The first amendment (and all of the amendments in the Bill of rights, for that matter) exists to protect you from prosecution because of something you might say. It does not protect you from having any repercussions from it.
For instance, if the state of Ohio tried to pass a law that said police officers may not engage in any racists discussions under penalty of law; that would be a clear violation of the first amendment. But, that is not what happened here; they were not charged with a crime in any way. They were simply put on leave pending investigation, and may be fired as a result.
Since it’s a separate issue altogether, I will avoid pointing out that the police officer’s union may work to save their jobs. My hatred of labor unions is well documented, so I will just state that I think the unions care little about rights or justice, just benefits to their own. In my opinion however, rights nor justice will be best served if these officers are not fired.
Oddly, the ones complaining about the rights of the officers being violated are actually championing rights violations of their employers instead, essentially making them hypocrites.
For instance, let’s imagine I started a business called Gary’s Gun Shop. Then imagine I had two employees whom I saw at some restaurant on their break. They don’t see me though, and I overhear them saying, “You know, I f***ing hate Marines. I wish every one of them died in combat.”
Owning a gun shop, I know that many of my customers will be current or former military, the last thing I want are employees who hate them. I have a legitimate concern that they will treat them poorly, so I should have the right to fire them, and you damn well bet I would.
Sadly, people often fail to look outside of themselves when it comes to employers. Most people have never owned their own business, and therefore have a hard time empathizing with business owners who do in fact have the same rights they do.
Imagine the police came to your home and told you how to arrange your furniture. Would you be pretty mad? Well business owners own a business, just as you own your home, so it’s essentially the same thing.
Obviously these officers work for government, which is owned by the people, not a person. But whether the owner of a company is taking disciplinary action against an employee, or it’s just their boss who is making that decision doesn’t matter. A supervisor of any sort has the right to fire you if they have legitimate concerns about how you may do your job in a way that’s inconsistent with that organization’s mission statement.
People often fail to realize that you do not have the right to a job, you only have the right to pursue employment. Whether an employer wants to hire you or keep you as an employee is their right alone. Your right is with whom you choose to accept an employment offer from, and that’s it.
The other issue at play here is a serious issue many people are losing sight of—liability. Once news broke these officers were clearly racists, and specifically stated they hated black people, that information is in the public domain.
If that officer then goes on to carry out their duties against a black person, any policy they might violate would immediately be grounds for a civil suit against the police department he serves. The officer’s racist texts would be exhibit #1 for the prosecution, and it would be an immensely powerful bit of evidence.
The litigants would easily argue that the officer did not act in good faith, use his racist diatribe against him, and blame the police force for not dismissing the officer accordingly, arguing they knowingly kept someone on staff who had the propensity to violate the rights of black people. And furthermore, they’d be right!
Such suits can cost communities, and therefore taxpayers millions. So kudos to this police department for taking swift action. Let’s hope the police union breaks with tradition and sides with justice, instead of opting to protect the bad actors among their ranks—I’m not holding my breath though, they have a history…