A federal judge ruled that the city of Cleveland did not violate a police officer’s civil rights when officials disciplined him for using a term that many feel is derogatory toward Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent, Cleveland.com reports. U.S. District Judge James Gwin wrote in an order Wednesday that the city did not violate patrolman Aaron Petitt’s free-speech rights when disciplining him for a word he used in a text to a fellow officer. The judge dismissed the lawsuit. Petitt, who works in the Third District, was suspended for six days without pay in May 2018 and ordered to attend sensitivity training after Internal Affairs found a text he sent.
An officer on April 27, 2017 texted Petitt that “Middle Eastern types” were causing problems at the Hustler Club strip club in the Flats and asked Petitt to come down there while he was on-duty, city records show. Petitt replied by saying it was “never a bother to tune up some (explicit word) haha.” The disciplinary charge lodged against Petitt was that he used “disparaging remarks when referencing an Arabic male during a potential police action.” The six-day suspension was also for other infractions that IA said Petitt committed. Petitt and the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association sued in July and said the city violated the officer’s First Amendment and due process rights. The lawsuit argued that the meaning of the term was ambiguous.