Georgia Police Sergeant Sues After Being Terminated For Flying Confederate Flag In Her Backyard

flag28n-2-webThere is an interesting first amendment case filed in Georgia where a police sergeant is contesting his termination after flying the Confederate flag at her home. It is of course perfectly legal to fly a confederate flag and Silvia Cotriss, a 20-year-veteran of the police, said that she was simply celebrating her heritage. However, her neighbors found the flag offensive and complained.

220px-Confederate_Rebel_Flag.svgThe case raises very serious free speech concerns. On July 11th, a man said that he spotted the flag in Cotriss’ backyard for walking his daughter and son to pre-school. He wrote to Roswell Police Chief Rusty Grant, who had been visiting various black churches in the area after the Dallas police massacre. A complaint was lodged against Cotriss and she was questioned by detectives on why she felt the need to fly the flag. It is a curious investigation because Cotriss has every right to fly the flag for any number of reasons from Southern pride or historical interest. She was told that the flag had negative connotations and was inappropriate. In her termination, Capt. Helen Dunkin of the internal affairs office wrote that Cotriss had “engaged in conduct that was unbecoming, which brought discredit to the Roswell Police Department when she flew” the flag in her yard. A few days later, she was fired.

Cotriss has a strong foundation for a free speech challenge. Her flying the flag at her private residence raises core first amendment issues. 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).

In this case, you have a core private speech claim by the public employee. She did not bring the flag to work and did not associate the flag with her public service. There is no question that this would be protected speech in the case of an ordinary citizen punished for flying a flag. The question is whether the status as a police officer makes such speech sanctionable.

What do you think?

185 thoughts on “Georgia Police Sergeant Sues After Being Terminated For Flying Confederate Flag In Her Backyard

  1. From her appearance in the photo posted by JT, the police officer appears white/caucasian/non-african-american/etc. It will be interesting upon pre-trial discovery to learn the ethnic/racial make-up of the person who complained.

    • Two guesses:

      1. bourgeois white female of the sort who complain to the police when her neighbors let their children walk to the playground unattended. There’s an unfortunate family in Montgomery County, Md. who have been collared by law enforcement and child protective multiple times for this.

      2. Black guy with an attitude, who fancies he’s owed deference.

  2. wrong a-clown. Public Servant right? This does reflect on the PD department, and her ability to enforce the law equally. Soory, free speech does not come in to play here.

  3. I will put a Confederate Flag up in my back yard to show support. But no one will understand why I am doing it.
    The BS about “my Heritage” which one hears from the flag wavers is a bit odd.
    Your great great great grand daddy was born in Germany. Going to fly the Nazi flag? English flag?
    But. This lady has a right to fly the flag in her backyard.
    Please follow the results of what happens here. And if you hear something folks please report in.

    • I disagree. It creates a liability. Police, wrongfully or not,are already perceived as racist. If she has a bad interaction with a black suspect the flag will bring up doubts that she isn’t biased or racist.
      I bet if this was someone fired for burning the US flag you’d support the firing.

      • Just because the Marxists of the OnePartyMedia and their confederates (Ha ha) have spent decades propagandizing this flag doesn’t mean that I’m a racist cause I be pink…does it?

  4. If it isn’t illegal to fly that flag she didn’t breach any law. Prove that she’s racist and fire her for that, or reinstate her back dated to the day she was fired or else risk losing in court and having to reinstate or pay an obscene amount for failing to uphold the constitution.

  5. I think they should have the right to fire her since she is a potential liability. Question if she was flying the Nazi Flag would that be OK? What if she had personal public post using racial slurs? It’s not illegal to say the n-word for example but an employer will fire you all the same.

    If she gets her job back then she certainly shouldn’t be put on patrol or be in any situation where she can be accused of being biased towards a citizen.

    • The efforts of blockheads to equate Confederate flags with Nazi flags tell us about the mentality of said blockheads. They clarify no issues. I think employers should fire these blockheads because their stupidity is a liability.

    • You people know that most of the people who fought for the South did not own slaves? The fought because it was their state and it was states’ rights. There is no reason to believe that because she flies a Confederate flag that she is biased against anyone but Northerners. It was the War of Northern Aggression, you know.

  6. Many of the same pigs on two feet (Animal Farm) demonizing this flag, also have tirelessly demonized the Star of David…equating that with the Nazi flag. Like I said, pigs on two feet.

    • The only interesting thing about it is its antagonistic attempt to assuage an immoral history where people were enslaved to do the work of others. Now you’re boasting that those same people aren’t doing enough of it. Same old bit, and you’ve got your nerve.

        • A poll that concludes most blacks think they’re the most racist ethnic group is a bit like a white guy from the suburbs concluding the vestiges of what you politely characterize as “old wrongs” are gone and therefore we owe nothing to this portion of our citizenry. Thinking in racist terms wasn’t their doing and surely isn’t limited to African-Americans.

          Condescension, let alone racism, is a white guy from the suburbs chatting about what he thinks is unfair while using the rhetorical “reverse discrimination” after whites enslaved African-Americans for centuries to do their work here so they didn’t have to. And it continues on, most importantly through gerrymandering and unfair employment and educational opportunities.

          Walk a mile in their shoes.

      • Steve – Rasmussen’s poll is important especially since there is this meme that blacks cannot be racist. Yet when survey, black see themselves are more racist as whites or Hispanics.

  7. What tort or injury did Cotriss’ flying that flag cause? Who was physically hurt, financial defrauded, defamed/slandered, etc.?

    Society can’t be damaged; it is an ethereal idea/concept. Government can’t be damaged, unless Roswell or its PD can demonstrate loss of revenue/etc. Was person who complained (or SJW’s here) traumatized – perhaps emotionally/psychologically – in some way? Up to said person(s) to prove it.

    “Having found no injured party except the First Amendment. Jury rules for Cotriss. Judge affirms jury decision and award. Defendant shall pay all court costs and reimburse all legal fees incurred by the Cotriss. So ordered.”

  8. Being offended is not a harm or injury. She has a right to put up the flag. Just because some think it’s a symbol of oppression does not mean that it is. Just like some think US flag is a sign of oppression. Does not mean it is. But that’s their opinion. No harm done. No injury. No inciting of violence. Wrongful firing. Her property.

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