A police officer in Massachusetts who drew national attention for a Facebook post mocking the death of a woman run down by a car during protests in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer has been fired.
Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said Friday he fired Conrad Lariviere from the police force after a hearing board determined comments made on his personal Facebook page violated department policies by bringing public discredit down on the Springfield police.
"It caused such harm to the department that it will take us months, if not years, to earn back the level of public trust we once had," said Barbieri.
The union that represents Springfield Police Department officers, Local 364, IBPO, issued a statement calling Barbieri’s decision “political.” The statement from the union local’s executive board said it expected Lariviere to appeal to try to keep his job. He was hired as a Springfield Police officer in 2014.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said in a statement that he fully supports the decision to fire the officer. Sarno said the comments Lariviere made on Facebook on August 12th were “insensitive and uncalled for.”
The Facebook post, under a news article about a car running down anti-racism protestors, leaving one dead and 19 injuried, said “Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn’t block roads.”
The remark set off outrage. A national petition, signed by thousands, called for Lariviere to be fired.
Although there is a social meeting policy that governs non-union employees of the city of Springfield, the issue is currently the subject of contract talks with the patrolman’s union.
" This is an unusual profession and it is on duty and off duty behavior that is viewed by the public, and absolutely social media is part of that," said Barbieri.
Typically, Barbieri declines to comment on disciplinary decisions, but he made an exception Friday by scheduling a news conference to announce the firing of Lariviere.
" Because of the unbelievable impact it had on the department with the national attention we felt the need to get out front and be transparent about the termination," explained Barbieri.
Last year, Barbieri came in for criticism when he suspended for 60 days, but did not fire, police detective Gregg Bigda, who was videotaped threatening to kill and plant drug evidence on two teenagers while bragging he could get away with it because he was a cop.
City Councilor Justin Hurst, one of the police commissioner’s harshest critics in the handling of the Bigda case, said Barbieri went too far in firing Lariviere.
" I just don't think it was the right solution," Hurst said in an interview. " His ( Lariviere) comments were insensitive and outright stupid, but at the same time I think the proper way to handle it was to use it as a teachable moment for new officers to learn and he could learn as well. I think that is how you change the culture in the department."
A press release from the police department included a statement from City Council President Orlando Ramos commending Barbieri for “taking this matter seriously and sending a strong message.”
Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield branch of the NAACP, said in a statement he had contacted Barbieri to commend him for “making the right decision” to fire Lariviere.