Springfield police have fired a detective for an Instagram post last month expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
MassLive reported Wednesday that Florissa Fuentes, a 30-year-old detective who was recently promoted in the Special Victims Unit, was fired by department leaders on June 19 after a May 29 post on her personal Instagram account while off duty.
The photo, which Fuentes later deleted, showed her niece during a protest in Atlanta following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis holding a sign that said, “Shoot the F— Back,” while another person’s sign read “Who do we call when the murderer wears the badge?”
“After I posted it, I started getting calls and texts from co-workers,” Fuentes told MassLive. “I was initially confused, but then I realized they thought I was being anti-cop. I wasn’t. I was just supporting my niece’s activism. I had no malicious intent, and I wouldn’t put a target on my own back. I’m out there on the streets every day like everyone else.”
Still, the single Latina mother of three — who was still within her initial probationary period after joining the force in July 2019 — said she received a call from her captain informing her that Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood was “mad” and wanted to meet.
Clapprood said that she was “getting pressure from the mayor’s office” and to “find a way to fix this,” according to Fuentes. Joseph Gentile, the president of the Springfield police union, reportedly suggested posting an apology on the union’s Facebook page
However, the Facebook apology (which was also deleted) reportedly received a mixed response, including backlash from fellow officers. And on June 19 — hours after a police department “unity” photo — Fuentes said she received a call from Gentile giving her the option to resign or be fired. She chose the latter.
“I felt used,” Fuentes told MassLive. “The commissioner waved at me from her car while I was there. They all knew what was happening.”
However, Clapprood denied telling Fuentes that she could “just fix it.”
“That’s the issue with social media — once you post something it’s out there and you can’t retract it,” the commissioner told MassLive. “That post was hurtful to many of her co-workers.”
According to Clapprood, it was the “second issue” Fuentes had. Asked about the comment by Fuentes that Clapprood was “getting pressure from the mayor’s office,” an aide to Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno noted that the commissioner told MassLive that it was her decision to fire Fuentes.
“I support Commissioner Clapprood’s decision,” Sarno told Boston.com in a statement.
Other department members also have been fired for inflammatory social media posts; in 2017, an officer was fired — albeit amid protest from the police union — after writing “Hahahaha love this” in response to a Facebook post about a car striking and killing a counter-protester at a white supremacist rally in Virginia.
Additionally, a labor rights expert told MassLive that — given the sign in the photo suggesting people shoot back at police — Fuentes’s post could be seen as crossing the line when it comes to “disrupting the workplace.”
Still, at least one fellow Springfield officer spoke out against the firing, arguing that the punishment was disproportionate with actions.
“There are officers who lied on police reports and have done worse things, yet they remain employed,” the officer, who asked to remain anonymous in fear of retribution, told MassLive.
Earlier this spring, the Springfield Police Department, which was struggled with staffing issues, also faced criticism for reinstating five suspended officers who were criminally charged for an off-duty brawl outside a bar.
The department also still employs Anthony Bedinelli, a twice-fired officer — whose terminations were both overturned on appeal — who has been the subject of 18 separate internal investigations during his career, including for alleged physical incidents while on and off duty. But as MassLive reported last month, Bedinelli was recently passed over for a promotion.