MPD investigating officer's Facebook posts following Sterling Brown arrest

Posted at 5:18 PM, Jun 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-20 18:18:50-04

The Milwaukee Police Department said on Wednesday it's investigating Facebook posts allegedly made by an officer involved in the arrest and tasing of Sterling Brown. 

The posts are pictured in a federal, civil rights lawsuit filed by Brown's attorney this week.

In one of the Facebook posts, MPD Officer Erik Andrade allegedly wrote, "Nice meeting Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks at work this morning! Lol #FearTheDeer" shortly after Brown's arrest.

In a later post, after NBA player J.R. Smith made a critical mistake during game one of the NBA finals, Andrade is accused of taking to Facebook and posting, "I hope JR Smith double parks in Walgreens handicap Parkin spots when he's in Milwaukee!" 

Brown was arrested after parking his vehicle in two handicap parking spaces outside of a Walgreens back in January. Body camera video showed officers tackling him to the ground and tasing him. 

Brown was never charged in connection with the incident. 

The policy on social media use in the Milwaukee Police Department's Standard Operating Procedure specifies members "should never assume that personal information posted on such sites is protected and private." 

"While the department does not actively monitor member off duty use of (social media), the department does have the right to look and take appropriate lawful action if it comes to our attention that usage violates the department Code of Conduct, conflicts with job duties, interferes with the department’s mission, or breaches confidential departmental information," the policy reads. 

The standard operating procedure also calls on members to "not represent themselves as a member of the department on your personal website or social networking site in any manner which brings, or is likely to bring, discredit upon the department." 

"Any such conduct may be investigated in order to establish whether or not a breach of the MPD Code of Conduct has occurred," the policy reads. 

The Code of Conduct specifies that both the police chief and the city's Fire and Police Commission have the ability to investigate an MPD employee for possible breach of the code. 

"The Chief of Police or the Fire and Police Commission reserves the right to impose discipline up to and including discharge from the department if, after a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation has been conducted, it is determined that a breach of the Code has occurred," the code reads.

Speech prohibited by the social media use policy includes, "speech containing obscene or sexually explicit language, images, acts and statements or other forms of speech that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals." 

Robert C. Willis, a retired law enforcement officer and expert on use of force, noted social media can often be used by police departments to publicize successful work. 

Police department Facebook and Twitter accounts can also be used to publicize photos of crime suspects and ask for help from the public to identify them. 

"It's a very positive thing for law enforcement if it's used correctly," Willis said. 

But he added poor judgment on social media can damage the public's trust in the police. Even if such a post is the opinion of only one officer. 

"That's why most departments have policies in place and they tell officers that, 'you don't have a first amendment right when it comes to this job,'" Willis said. 

He noted social media accounts maintained by officers, even if those accounts are personal, are often more scrutinized than pages belonging to the general public.

"I think it's good we hold officers to a higher standard, and I think an officer who doesn't hold him or herself to a high standard is probably doing the job for the wrong reasons," Willis said.