Michigan Officer Suspended For Being Seen Driving With Confederate Flag on this Truck

12072716_1667424273500592_762894970367373832_nThere is an interesting free speech case brewing in Traverse City, Michigan where officer Michael Peters was suspended Sunday with pay after he was seen off-duty driving a pickup truck bearing a Confederate flag. He was seen near a group protesting Donald Trump’s election as president. The case raises, again, the right of public employees to engage in protected speech in their personal time and private lives.

I have previously written about concerns that public employees are increasingly being disciplined for actions in their private lives or views or associations outside of work. We have previously seen teachers (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) students (here, here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a prior career in the adult entertainment industry (here and here and here).

In this case, O’Brien confirmed that a photo showed Peters at the rally Friday with the flag. However, the flag is a form of protected speech and there is no allegation that Peters invoked or referenced his public position. There is also no reference to an express threat as opposed to the fact that many view the flag as a hateful symbol.

What do you think?

73 thoughts on “Michigan Officer Suspended For Being Seen Driving With Confederate Flag on this Truck

  1. Freedom of expression is protected by the Constitution… Freedom from consequences of that expression is not. If one chooses to exercise their freedom of expression, they have to be willing to accept the potential consequences for exercising that right.

    Officer Peters wasn’t arrested for flying the Confederate flag. He wasn’t fired for flying the Confederate flag. However, his employer was fully justified in questioning his judgement, temperment, and demeanor regarding the incident and whether they wanted him to continue representing them.

    I liken this to the Colin Kaepernick situation in the NFL. He is certainly exercising his first amendment right to kneel during the National Anthem, but the owners of the San Francisco 49ers would certainly be within their rights to tell him that his behavior is unacceptable while employed by them.

    • Trent Baalke can say anything he wants to Kaep, who is not obliged to even listen to it. If Baalke desired to require players to stand for the anthem, he can try placing such in future contracts, which players are not required to sign. To suggest Baalke can make such requirement retroactive is ridiculous.

      I believe the NFLPA would prohibit and disallow such requirement. I’ll take 2-1 odds 32 white or almost exclusively white multi-billionaires shall never agree to allow certain owners to force employees (estimate 90% black) to stand for the anthem.

      You won’t likely be concerned w/Kaep next year, as this is probably his last year in the NFL.

      • The Coach can tell Kaernack to stay in the locker room until after the National Anthem. How many people who paid to see the game are vets? Or have lost spouses or children to wars protecting our freedoms. For them the flag is special. Any team member that agrees with you can stay in the locker room also.

  2. It is a toss up.

    I would say that consequences can legitimately be imposed where the employee’s job description is substantively impacted by his public behavior.

    In this case I think it was within the rebuttable discretion of the employer to suspend the employee, since part of the job description involves dealing with the public in a non-partisan fashion.
    It could be argued that the confederate flag is commonly understood to be a symbol and advocacy of racism. I also think upon a counter challenge, that that action and perspective should be justified and proven.
    But I also think it should be contingent upon some member of the public complaining about it.

    • Just a short comment. It is interesting and very frustrating to call and complain only to hear “…,but you’re the only one who has called (complained),”. A whole little neighborhood can be without cable and nobody calls, expecting it to get fixed. Then one calls and hears the above.

      I then used three cellphones in the family and identified as other neighbors. Then we got it fixed in short order.

      Being the first or only one is often problematic.

    • I don’t view the confederate flag as a sign of racism. It’s a part of our history. If people would stop complaining they might not see that flag again.

      • The flag has different connotations in various parts of the country. Where I am from it symbolizes for lack of better words rugged individualism, being a rebel, a person who is a non-conformist and takes on life with vigor. We never thought of it as racist or oppressive. In other areas of the country this is not the case.

        It’s just a flag. It only threatens you if you allow yourself to be victimized.

  3. When I was a kid our county sheriff had a bumper sticker on his personal vehicle that read, “Ex-wife for sale; take over payments.” I suppose that could be construed that he didn’t support alimony laws, or was a misogynist or some other PC variant. I asked my grandmother what it meant and she replied, “Oh, he’s bitter; just ignore it.” Sage advice from another time and place when people didn’t feel the need to confront and accuse and label everyone who had an opinion different from their own.

  4. So just how far do we go? Suppose this officer inadvertently left an anti-Muslim tract by the late Jack Chick on the dash of his personal vehicle? What if he was found to have a portrait of Robert E. Lee in his basement? Oh, here’s one that’s really good! Suppose his personal vehicle was a Ford pickup and on the rear windshield, he had the image of a little boy urinating on a Chevrolet bowtie emblem? Surely all of these would be worthy of suspending this hate-monger in policeman’s clothing! Now suppose he had a large poster in his basement depicting Donald J. Trump with a bull’s-eye centered right between his eyes. Woe unto the supervisor that would dare suspend him for that! The media would make it national news and a fight for Constitutional freedom. He’d be back at work in no time with public apologies from all involved and monetary compensation for all his mental anguish! This is what our nation has become and I for one don’t like it. If anyone needs a suspension, it’s the thought police!

  5. It’s not an easy call. I default to saying the government can’t sanction people for speech, even government employees save in certain situations such as when they are or purport to be speaking for the government.

    But there’s a temperament question, and that’s not really a speech issue. Is this cop really capable of being a fair-dealer with those in the community he serves, especially when during his “off-duty” hours he decides the thing to do is go antagonize people with a different view than him?

    There’s also the “never off duty” mantra we’d be hearing if he’d shot someone while flying his flag and claiming he feared for his life…

  6. As a veteran, I knew that I had limits on my speech and action and I accepted those limits. GIs like police are never off duty, and this cop knew that full well. Even when I was flying for my airline, I had limits too. Off duty or not, I could not wear political buttons, off duty or not when in uniform This cop is an obvious racist, and I support his being fired, since he shows that his personal political beliefs are at variance with his duty to be fair and impartial. It is specious to argue that the battle flag of the Army of Norther Virginia is not a racist symbol. It is also a flag of TREASON, I have to note. That alone would be concern as to how his oath to support and protect the Constitution of the USA will be observed. He got what he deserved.

    • The contemporaries who fought that war against the Confederates (i.e. Ulysses Grant), never regarded them as traitors, nor were they treated as such by the US Government.

      This is just another attempt by the cultural Marxists to destroy another part of traditional American culture and history.

      ¡Viva Presidente Trump!

    • randyjet wrote: “As a veteran, I knew that I had limits on my speech and action and I accepted those limits. GIs like police are never off duty, and this cop knew that full well. Even when I was flying for my airline, I had limits too. Off duty or not, I could not wear political buttons, off duty or not when in uniform This cop is an obvious racist, and I support his being fired…”

      Just because you were willing to give up your civil rights does not mean you should expect everyone else to give up their civil rights.

      • david, the FACT is that as a government employee, there are LAWS against political activity. In FACT, if you knew your US history, it was the GOP which furthered this policy and laws. As a visible representative of any company, I accepted such limits as part of my employment. That is called common sense too. So the most recent post by Turley shows what happens when the CEO of a company violates that policy with intemperate statements.

        In Houston, the HPD had a close association with a criminal organization which used that flag as its symbol, the KKK. Or as the chief of HPD, Herman Short, said at the time, there is no problem with cops being a member of the KKK. They are a fine patriotic organization. I am glad to see that you have no problem with TERRORISTS. You and Darren have shown yourselves to be unAmerican to say the least. This was at the same time in which Houston was having a bombing campaign being run by the KKK and the HPD.

        • randyjet, it is NOT unAmerican for us to support the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

          You might want to review Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507 (1980) and Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, 497 U.S. 62 (1990).

          Summary of Rutan v. Republican Party from Oyez.org:
          *****
          … the Court held that Governor Thompson’s practices amounted to an unconstitutional patronage system. The Court found that employees would feel “a significant obligation to support political positions held by their superiors” in lieu of their true beliefs in order to progress up the career ladder. The Court thus held that “promotions, transfers, and recalls after layoffs based on political affiliations or support” were impermissible infringements on the right to free expression of public employees. The Court noted that while the First Amendment was not “a tenure provision” protecting employees from “constructive discharge,” it nevertheless prevented the government from interfering with its employees’ freedom “to believe and associate.”
          *****
          https://www.oyez.org/cases/1989/88-1872

      • Not sure how you leaped across the crevasse of somebody’s experience and “everyone else” having to comply.

        The issue centers on an occupation. Again, the govt is restricted by the Constitution. A business’s or public employee is routinely constrained as a result of accepting employment. It’s free will/choice or what-have-you.

        If the condition of employment or the standards and practices restrict or require your going nude during gay pride parade in Seattle, then it’s a choice of whether you continue with the employer. This, by the way, is not even related to ones described constitutional rights re. discrimination.

        This thread addresses performance and not employment on the basis of basic rights.

        There are statutes which address hostile work environments and remedies. If the “perp” required others to run around with the Stars and Bars…hostile wk environ…possibly.

  7. It is specious to argue that a penny or a $5 bill is not a racist symbol. Abraham Lincoln said the following on September 18, 1858 in a speech in Charleston, Illinois:

    “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races: that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

    Let’s suspend any policeman, any airline pilot, or any member of our military who insists on keeping racist currency in his/her pockets!

  8. The fact also is that Gen Lee also lost his citizenship as a result of his insurrection and treason against the USA. I see that conservatives only like PARTS of the Constitution that they agree with. A person who thinks that waging war against the US is not treason, needs to READ the Constitution since treason is the one crime that is clearly defined in it. This shows the low educational and intellectual level that this blog has devolved to. INCREDIBLE!

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