Norfolk Police Officer Fired For Making Anonymous Donation To Kyle Rittenhouse

Norfolk Police Department

Sgt. William Kelly, the second highest-ranking official in the Norfolk Police Department’s internal affairs division, has been fired for making an anonymous donation to the defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse. The donation (revealed after a security breach of the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo was accompanied by a note saying that Rittenhouse did “nothing wrong.” Despite the obvious attack on free speech and associational rights, there has been little concern raised in the media or by legal experts.  Two days ago, a reporter in Utah went to the home of a paramedic to confront him on why he made a $10 donation of Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two people during violent protests last summer in Wisconsin.

Kelly is an 18-year veteran of the department. He made an anonymous donation and was not publicly speaking as an officer.  He included a note “God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong.”

Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer said in a statement that Police Chief Larry Boon agreed the officer violated city and departmental policies against “egregious comments.”

Section 5.1 of the Norfolk Police Manual prohibits any conduct or comments, including off-duty, that would produce a “loss of respect” for the department or bring it into “disrespect.” It is the type of ambiguous standard that is anathema to free speech and associational rights.

Not only was Kelly fired, but Filer and Boon carried out the action in just 72 hours — leaving little time for a defense or full investigation.

If this was an anonymous contribution, it is hard to see how it violates any rule on public commentary. Reports indicate that Kelly was the victim of a security breach. It is also notable that Rittenhouse has not been found guilty and is entitled to a presumption of innocence.  Rittenhouse insists that he was acting in self-defense after he was attacked.  That is obviously a highly contested defense that has divided many. It is ultimately a matter for the court and the jury to decide.

Police officers (and paramedics) should be able to make donations to legal funds without being harassed by the media or fired by their departments. The fact that Kelly added a message anonymously to a legal defense fund does not implicate his department or fellow officers.  If the account of the breach is true, the comment was not intended to be made public. It would amount to the firing of an officer over a communication intended to be non-public — the same status as a private communication. The question is whether the department would fire an officer who made such a remark privately in an email to  friends that was later hacked.

In my view, the case raises very serious concerns over free speech and associational rights. The Utah case is particularly chilling as the media attempts to embarrass or harass public employees who donate to controversial causes or legal defense funds.

At a minimum, the department should have allowed for a reasonable period of investigation and consideration of these issues before terminating Kelly. Putting aside his 18 years of public service, Kelly remains a citizen with basic rights accorded to him under the First Amendment.

147 thoughts on “Norfolk Police Officer Fired For Making Anonymous Donation To Kyle Rittenhouse”

  1. Jonathan: In a few key strokes you have made ex-police Sgt. William Kelly famous in police squad rooms around the country. Kelly believes Kyle Rittenhouse did “nothing wrong” when he shot dead 2 and seriously wounded a third with his AR-15. You defend Kelly’s donation as just an exercise in “free speech and associational rights”. So now many other white racist police officers will no doubt be prompted to also contribute to the Kyle Rittenhouse defense fund as a show of solidarity. And Rittenhouse needs a lot of money because who knows when he will actually go to trial. His attorney(s) need to get paid in the meantime. I can’t wait for the Rittenhouse trial to begin and for you to weigh in in defense of Rittenhouse because he did “nothing wrong”. It was just a case of “self defense”. You struck out in the Chauvin trial and I doubt all your arguments against Chauvin’s conviction will have much effect on the appellate judges. Let’s see if you have better luck in the Rittenhouse trial.

  2. Most dangerous technologies are regulated by government safety agencies. There is ample evidence that not even Fortune 500 companies or intelligence agencies can prevent hacking (with the most sophisticated protection). Should Americans minimize their internet use since it’s not a safe technology?

    Recently in the news (EFF.org) it was reported that public school administrators are cutting deals to provide school children with inexpensive laptops but the schools are bypassing the parents in selling your children’s private information. The laptops are taken home and record all search histories plus contains the personal identifying information of each child, including real time location information. There is literally a lifelong dossier being created on every child – without any oversight by any court.

    This is simply not safe technology. If the government can’t protect consumers, we should stop using most of it.

  3. Anonymous has reached a new high.
    One of the other proponents of such activities is/was Adolf Hitler.
    Congratulations
    .

  4. Loss of respect or the furtherance of disrespect are highly subjective standards. What one may feel is disrespectful, another may not.

    Also, noting it was anonymous, and the anonymity was breached.

    1. I also want to know, if one is said to be “off duty,” for ~ 16 hour in a day, is he/she not allowed to have a personal life, or opinion contrary to their “duties” as a representative of the public, or even a private business.

      Can one not have a work face, and a personal life face?

      We do make this distinction between work and personal life.

      Thus, if one is said to be “off duty,” they are simply living their personal life, and should be allowed to do so freely, without consequences or repercussions of speech.

      The fact that a statute would even try to infringe on personal life, by using the words “off duty,” seems short-sighted.

      1. Lol, police manual*** rather. 🤣 long day.
        Anyway, the gist of my point still stands.

        When you’re off-duty, you shoukd be “off.”

        You’re essentially asking officers to stay “on-duty,” and act in accordance as if they were still on the clock, and being paid to be on the clock.

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