Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit has issued a “death letter” against a Bartow police officer based upon a social media post in November of last year. This should be yet another warning that police officers do not have First Amendment protections against opinionated, questionable, or inflammatory personal Internet postings.
Ofc. Christina Arribas posted the following on Facebook under an alias name after the Presidential election: “Yes!!!! This year we lost two gorillas. One is in heaven, and one is moving out of the White House. One will be missed. One will not be.”
Based upon this single post, State Attorney Brian Haas officially wrote to Ofc. Arribas that, “The evidence of your bias is so strong, that your credibility is damaged to the point that this office will no longer use you as a witness in any of our cases.”
“It wasn’t a tough decision,” said Haas. “There’s no place for those kind of comments from a law enforcement officer who is going to be coming into court and testifying about evidence.”
A local church group began protesting outside Bartow’s police department last week. The SAO first heard of the Facebook post then. The group is calling for Arribas and the Bartow chief to be fired.
Arribas’ career is essentially over. Although she was disciplined by her department with a two day suspension without pay for violating the agency’s social media policy, the SAO letter will, in effect, preclude her from working in law enforcement anywhere. Be forewarned that as a cop, your behavior is under constant scrutiny.
Update: On March 23, Bartow PD Chief Joe Hall fired Ofc. Arribas.