Chicago police Lt. John Andrews knew that he was nudging a hornet’s nest when he posted an essay on his personal blog criticizing the police department as beleaguered by a manpower shortage, low morale, and public perceptions of rising crime, says the Chicago Tribune. Last week, the 25-year police veteran, who works as a watch commander in a police district, was notified that he was being investigated by the Internal Affairs Division for bringing “discredit” to the department for comments in his 3,072-word essay, decrying everything from internal cronyism and public apathy to emboldened criminals and pay disparities.
Andrews remains on duty while he awaits the completion of the investigation and could face disciplinary action, including termination. Andrews said he was just exercising free speech when he told the public about the problems police officers face. He said he felt compelled to comment publicly after the slaying of Officer Michael Bailey, the third officer killed within two months, to discuss the problems officers face every day. Police Superintendent Jody Weis wouldn’t comment specifically on Andrews’ case, but said, “I don’t think leaders should sit and throw rocks at respective agencies or at those who are trying to address the challenges.” Officers nationwide have gotten into trouble for online comments. In May, an officer in Georgia spurred his department to create a Web policy after posting racially insensitive comments on his Facebook account. A legal scholar believes that Andrews’ essay could be protected.”There is a serious First Amendment issue here,” said Sheldon Nahmod, a constitutional law and civil rights professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law.