A Springfield, Massachusetts detective named Florissa Fuentes was fired after posting a photo of her niece attending an Atlanta Black Lives Matter rally on Instagram while she was off-duty. Fuentes’ niece was reportedly holding a sign that said “shoot the fu*k back,” in response to the recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and others.
Speaking with MassLive, Fuentes said she took the post down quickly after several coworkers reached out to her and “expressed their concerns” about the photo.
“I was initially confused, but then I realized they thought I was being anti-cop. I wasn’t,” Fuentes told the outlet. “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.”
After she took down the post, Fuentes was contacted by the head of the Springfield Police Department’s Detective Bureau, Capt. Trent Duda, who told her that Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood was “highly upset” about the post.
“I apologized to [Commissioner Clapprood] and I told her that I understand where my fellow officers are coming from. But, at no time did I post that with malicious intent,” Fuentes told WBUR. “She did say that she thinks very highly of me, and she didn’t want to terminate me, and that I needed to figure out a way to fix this.”
At the recommendation of Clapprood and Springfield Police Patrolmen Association President Joseph Gentile, Fuentes wrote a public apology to the department on the police union’s Facebook.
“To my fellow officers, I recently shared a post that a family member had posted of themselves protesting the recent death of George Floyd,” her post, which has since been deleted, read. “I did not share this photo with any malicious intent and I should have thought of how others might perceive it. I apologize to all of those who I have offended. I am not anti-cop. I wear my badge proudly and have committed my life and career to being a police officer.”
However, Fuentes was fired from the department soon after. As a new officer — just one month away from receiving tenure benefits — she was still on a probationary period. Fuentes told WBUR that Clapprood said she’d received pressure from the mayor to fire her.
“As the Commissioner stated, she was pressured by the mayor. I think it was driven by politics,” Fuentes said.
In a statement about Fuentes’ firing, Clapprood suggested that a prior incident had played a role in her termination.
“This was Ms. Fuentes’s second infraction during her probationary period,” the commissioner said. “Complaints about her social media post came from coworkers who were hurt by it and questioned her stance on the quote that advocated shooting police officers. It was my decision to terminate her employment.”
The first infraction, Fuentes said, was about a verbal dispute that occurred between her and a family member while she was still enrolled in the police academy.
“That family member had filed a police report. I was in the academy and one of the lieutenants who was the director of the academy spoke to me about it. He said that you know, they have to write up the incident. He asked me to write on it. And that was pretty much the end of that,” she said. “I didn’t think that that would actually come back and haunt me now or that the department [would] use that as an excuse to fire me.”
A fellow Springfield officer, who chose to remain anonymous, told MassLive that there are other officers who are also in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but are too afraid to speak out.
“There’s a lot of officers who are afraid to speak up about this issue and don’t want to be targeted as well,” the officer told the outlet. “Although we agree punishment should have happened… she owned up to it immediately, and said sorry and she was sincere. There are officers who lied on police reports and have done worse things, yet they remain employed.”