Officer Keith Novara is now under internal investigation by the St. Louis Police Department after calling activist Leigh Maibes' employer to give them a "heads-up" about her activities in Ferguson.
After I posted about it yesterday, some commenters claimed Novara was not acting as a police officer, but just a concerned citizen.
To which I respond with this image, which is a screen shot of what Officer Novara texted to her employer before he called.
On Thursday, Novara had retained lawyer Neil J. Bruntrager through the St. Louis Police Officers Association. The police department confirmed that Novara was under investigation. He has not been suspended.
Bruntrager said he was unaware of any other case in which an officer had called a protester’s employer.
The association’s business manager, Jeff Roorda, claimed in a statement Thursday that Novara’s speech was protected under the First Amendment and that he was only “setting the record straight on public statements made by people spreading irresponsible lies and calling for violence against the police.”
But whether the officer’s phone call to Maibes’ boss truly falls under the rights guaranteed by the Constitution is a matter of debate.
Jeffrey Mittman, executive director for the ACLU of Missouri, said that the First Amendment limits government restrictions on free speech, but not necessarily how employers regulate employees’ speech.
As for Maibes’ right to speak out, Mittman suggested that it would be improper for Novara to interfere in his capacity as a police officer. On the video, Novara appears to indicate that he was.
“If a government actor is retaliating against someone who is engaged in First Amendment activity, that is not lawful,” Mittman said.
That last text is all I need to see. Novara was clearly acting as a police officer and not a private citizen.