A New Jersey township fired a police officer for describing Black Lives Matter protesters as "terrorists" in a social media post on her personal account.
Another officer will be suspended and demoted for replying to a comment on the Facebook post, NJ.com reported.
The fired Hopewell Township officer, Sara Erwin, posted the remark in June 2020.
"Last night as I left for work I had my two kids crying for me not to go to work. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the way I did last night. And then I watched people I know and others I care about going into harms way. I love my police family like my own," Erwin said on Facebook.
"So when you share posts and things on Facebook I’d really appreciate if you’d THINK before doing so. I’ve seen so many black lives matter [sic] hashtags in these posts. Just to let you know — they are terrorists. They hate me. They hate my uniform. They don’t care if I die."
In addition to Erwin losing her job, Sgt. Mandy Gray, the first female officer hired by the township, will be suspended for six months. She also is set to lose the rank of sergeant, which she received in 2019 and which made her the first woman in the department to achieve the rank.
The officers' lawyer, Frank Crivelli, said Monday evening that both Erwin and Gray are exemplary and decorated officers with "absolutely no disciplinary history."
He added the town’s actions against them were "disgraceful" and an act of "cowardice."
Initially, Erwin and several employees who reacted to the post were investigated and placed on leave, police said at the time. Police Chief Lance Maloney apologized to the community for the post shortly after it appeared.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office found no criminal behavior during an investigation, and the issue was sent back to the township for handling by the department, a prosecutor’s office spokesperson said.
The town took action Friday night through its council, which voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of a hearing officer.
Councilwoman Julie Blake, who serves as mayor, declined to discuss the matter, citing confidentiality concerns.
Crivelli said neither Erwin nor Gray had any prior internal affairs complaints despite each being a public servant with 20 or more years of service.
The attorney added appeals are underway in Superior Court for both, with First Amendment arguments front and center.
Petitions and protests in the Mercer County township demanded change in the department following Erwin’s Facebook post and a semi-related lawsuit by another veteran officer who claimed discrimination.
After Maloney's retirement last year, the township chose a civilian police director, Robert Karmazin, to head the department.
Karmazin, a retired New Jersey State Police captain with military experience, declined comment on Monday.
Erwin served as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer in the school system, and was featured several times on the police department’s Facebook page for making other appearances and presentations.
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