By Sheryl Estrada
Law enforcement, school officials and even journalists have been fired or suspended for inflammatory comments on social media pertaining to race and gender, which violate many company policies. Lt. Trudy Callahan of the Jacksonville County Sheriff Office (JSO) in Florida, who was suspended for 10 days following an internal affairs investigation, is one of the latest to commit a social media fail.
Six Instagram postings on her account truds137, which has since been deleted, were the subject of an internal investigation. The sheriff’s office found her online postings “violated code of conduct rules.” Callahan didn’t take the photos herself but re-posted several images pertaining to Black men.
Callahan re-shared an image of a police sketch drawing of a Black man in dreadlocks with the caption, “The police really expect somebody to find this n****. I know 6 n**** that looks like this.”
The caption was written by another Instagram user, but Callahan wrote on the post: “I could be a sketch artist.”
Another photo shows a Black man resting on a chain-link fence.
“Yeah its almost Friday so get your Hood Hammock,” Callahan wrote in a caption on the post. “Ready to chillax.”
The image, “The Hood Hammock,” has been circulating the Internet for more than a year, first appearing on Reddit. It was not indicated where the photo was taken.
And there was a posting that showed a Black man standing in a drive thru line at an ATM.
Callahan posted the comment, “When you need money to get gas for the car you can’t drive up to the ATM.”
The sheriff’s office said on April 22 that Callahan is appealing the suspension, which was the result of the investigation that began in January and concluded in late March.
The Florida Times-Union stated that, according to the summation, “Callahan wanted to include on the record that she felt as though the allegations were an example of things being ‘taken out of context’ and ‘twisted and turned to fit people’s agendas’.”
In the report obtained by the Times-Union, the lieutenant said she did not find the postings offensive and a racial slur was merely “a word used to describe a friend or describe a buddy.”
According to 2010 Census data, residents of Jacksonville are 59.4 percent white, 30.7 percent Black, 7.7 percent Latino, 4.3 percent Asian and less than 1 percent American Indian.
Since beginning her career at JSO in 1996, along with several commendations, Callahan garnered 49 citizen and internal complaints, ranging from harassment and unnecessary force to sleeping on duty. She has served three previous suspensions.
In 2003, Callahan was considered “the most complained-about Jacksonville police officer” on the force. She was promoted to sergeant in 2006 and lieutenant in March 2011.
Steve Amos, the president of Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police, released a statement regarding Callahan and social media postings, saying in part:
“We collectively do not condone or support any public comment on social media, or otherwise, that any member posts that may be considered insensitive to any individual or group … let me add that any public posts or comments of that nature do not reflect the core values and principals of the Fraternal Order of Police.”
At Amos’ request, Callahan resigned Feb. 1 from her board of directors post with the union.