Another recruit fired by Little Rock police over social media activity

She’s third in 2 months to lose job

Posted: January 26, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

A Little Rock police spokesman says the department has fired another recruit over social media activity.

It's at least the third time in the past two months the department has cited a recruit's social media activity in a termination, according to Little Rock police spokesman Lt. Michael Ford.

Ford identified Katina Jones as the latest fired recruit. He said he did not know if her termination stemmed from one or multiple social media posts. He said he could not further discuss why Jones was fired.

Jones' attorney, Robert Newcomb, said his client was fired, in part, over a social media post she made when she was 16 years old. The post, he said, contained a racial slur offensive to black people. Jones is black.

If Jones had continued her police training, she would have graduated next week, according to Ford.

Newcomb said he is also an attorney for Brandon Schiefelbein, who was terminated after the department opened an internal investigation into a June 2013 Facebook post of his that included a slur offensive to black people. Schiefelbein is white.

The contentious post on Schiefelbein's account included the words "Go night night n***a. Go night night" with a picture of a black man apparently sleeping on a bed.

Brandon Gurley, a recruit who had raised concerns about Schiefelbein's post, was also fired after the department said he violated multiple policies.

Newcomb said he now hopes the city reinstates Jones and Schiefelbein.

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According to Newcomb, the department cited two violations in firing Jones -- one related to her social media activity and another related to her disobeying an order.

In a letter addressed to Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter, Newcomb wrote that after the department fired Schiefelbein and Gurley, the department issued an order from Police Chief Kenton Buckner instructing "all of the other recruits to go back and remove from their [Facebook accounts] any offensive posts that might be objectionable."

Newcomb, in an interview Thursday, said Jones made an attempt to clean up her social media. But, he said, a post from when she was 16 years old remained up -- one that included a racial slur.

According to the attorney, the department said Jones disobeyed a direct order because the post was still up. Without the documents in front of him, Newcomb said, it was unclear if Jones had used the racial slur in other posts.

In the letter to Carpenter, Newcomb wrote that Jones' firing clearly seemed to be an overreaction.

"I will ask then that the members of the Board of Directors, the City Manager, and all members of the City Attorney's Office have their employability judged by their conduct when they were 16," the letter says.

"The City has spent a great deal of money in recruiting them, screening them, having them attend the academy when we are shorthanded and having officers having to work more hours," Newcomb wrote.

Little Rock police have dozens of sworn officer vacancies. In November, the department started one of its largest police recruit classes in more than two decades.

The three fired recruits belonged to a recruit class that began in August with 27 people, according to department data.

Since then, the recruits total in the class has dropped to 22, said Little Rock Lt. Rusty Rothwell. One recruit quit, another had to stop because of medical reasons and the other three were fired, he said.

The recruit class that began in November with 40 recruits is now down to 35, he said.

Gurley was fired from the department last month.

In a letter informing him of his termination, Buckner said the recruit violated a department policy that states "officers shall be truthful at all times, whether under oath or not, when conducting official police business."

"You have made several inconsistent statements during this investigation," he wrote in the letter.

Buckner also wrote that Gurley, who is black, violated a separate department policy as a result of comments the recruit made on social media. Gurley had posted numerous comments on his Facebook page that included words that were racially offensive," according to a department memo included in an internal investigation case file.

Little Rock police Sgt. Willie Davis said he has received a 10-day suspension after he did not report Schiefelbein's post to a supervisor, but instead notified the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association.

According to Davis, the department said the post should have been reported to a supervisor, and not doing so led to the suspension.

On Wednesday, Ford said Davis' 10-day suspension began Monday. Davis is a vice president in the black officers association.

Metro on 01/26/2018