A police detective in Springfield, Mass., said she was fired after sharing a photo of her niece at a Black Lives Matter protest on Instagram.
The detective, Florissa Fuentes, reposted her niece’s photo, which featured two people holding signs. One sign read, “Who do we call when the murderer wear the badge.” The other sign implied that people should shoot back at the police.
Ms. Fuentes, 30, joined the Springfield Police Department in July 2019 and was promoted to detective in the spring. She shared the post to support her niece and the movement as a whole, not as an endorsement of violence against the police, she said on Saturday.
But after she shared the post as an Instagram story late one night last month, Ms. Fuentes woke up to messages from colleagues warning her about possible consequences.
“You have a lot of haters. You’re going to get in trouble,” she recalled one co-worker telling her. Her quick advancement through the ranks, after she asked for a different shift so she could care for her three children, drew some criticism from fellow officers, she said.
She deleted the post and issued an apology to her co-workers in a private Facebook group.
“I did not share the photo with any malicious intent and I should have thought about how others might perceive it,” she wrote.
Some colleagues were supportive while others criticized her post.
One co-worker asked Ms. Fuentes to “please stay as far away from me as you can,” adding that Ms. Fuentes was “either too dangerous or too stupid to safely associate with.” That comment received 17 likes, and Ms. Fuentes deleted the apology.
Ms Fuentes’s post in support of the Black Lives Matter movement differs from the photos and social media posts shared by other officers who have been fired in recent weeks for messages that have included racist statements or images. Three officers in Aurora, Colo., were fired last week after posing near a memorial for Elijah McClain, 23, in which they appeared to be making light of his death after a police officer placed him in a chokehold last year.
Joseph Gentile, a national vice president of the National Association of Government Employees, which represents police officers and other public employees, posted to the Facebook group that he hoped “people will judge her by what she does going forward,” and asked the department to “please focus on staying united so we can stay safe!”
Ms. Fuentes said she met with supervisors at the department, including the commissioner. She said they expressed disappointment at the Instagram post but understood that she regretted sharing it. The commissioner, Cheryl Clapprood, had helped to promote Ms. Fuentes to detective after she asked for different working hours.
Though Ms. Fuentes said the workplace was “hostile,” with colleagues shunning her after sharing their criticisms in the Facebook group, she thought the episode was behind her. She soon heard that the mayor, Domenic Sarno, was upset about the post.
Ms. Fuentes said she received a call on June 19 from Mr. Gentile, who told her she could resign or be fired and that she needed to make a decision that day. Hours later, she turned in her badge and gun after being fired.
Ms. Fuentes’s niece was not immediately available for comment. Commissioner Clapprood could not be reached but confirmed the firing to The Republican, a Springfield newspaper, saying the termination was her decision.
Mr. Sarno could not be reached for comment but he told Western Mass News that Ms. Fuentes’s post violated the city’s social media policy.
He referred to the 2017 firing of a Springfield police officer who posted “Hahahaha love this. Maybe people shouldn’t block roadways” after a man drove into a crowd of demonstrators protesting a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed, and James Fields Jr., a white supremacist who was driving the car, was sentenced to life in prison.
Mr. Sarno said the posts were similar because they were both “derogatory comments.”
Ms. Fuentes, a single mother of three children, two of whom are Black, said being without a job has been difficult with “three mouths to feed,” and that she would return to work at the department if given the opportunity.
“I took this job to give back to the community — to the city that raised me,” she said. “If I could get my job back, I would take it in a heartbeat.”