The Cambridge Police Department is investigating “deeply disturbing” social media activity allegedly linked to a lieutenant in the police force that appears to make light of police brutality.
The department launched its investigation Friday following a Cambridge Day news report that allegedly uncovered the private Twitter account of Cambridge Police lieutenant Shawn Lynch. The account — which carried the lieutenant’s name and the handle “@CPD496” — included a post that reacted to a news article about police brutality with a GIF of the actor Will Smith clapping and a post reacting to a tweet about the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisc. with a GIF of the comedian Jerry Seinfield saying “That’s a shame.”
The account was deleted after Cambridge Day notified police of its presence.
CPD spokesperson Jeremy Warnick wrote in a Sunday email that the department swiftly launched an investigation into the social media posts after becoming aware of them.
“The Cambridge Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit has been directed to immediately commence a comprehensive staff investigation to determine if such statements were in fact made by the Officer and if the Officer violated any of the Department’s Codes of Conduct, Policies or Procedures,” Warnick wrote.
If true and found to violate the department’s policies, Warnick wrote that CPD will “seek to impose strict discipline against the officer.” Warnick would not share the details of the discipline, adding that the investigation remains in its initial phase.
This incident does not mark the first time CPD has come under fire for department members’ social media activity.
In May, Cambridge Police Superintendent Jack Albert inadvertently published a message on the department’s official Twitter account that called Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.) a “jerk” and U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) a “clown.” He subsequently apologized.
In his statement Sunday, Warnick acknowledged officers’ rights to freedom of expression unless such comments imperil the mission of the department.
“While the Department recognizes that employees have a right to free speech under the First Amendment, the Department will not tolerate statements that are inflammatory, discriminatory and/or disrespectful to any individuals, races or ethnicities that are linked in any way to an Officer’s employment as a Cambridge Police Officer,” Warnick wrote.
“Statements such as those alleged to have been made violate the public trust that the Department has rigorously taken pride in building, which can cause immeasurable damage to that trust, and they will not be tolerated,” he added. “It is imperative that the community can rely upon and have the utmost confidence in the commitment of all Cambridge Police Department Officers to provide the highest level of public safety services to all residents of Cambridge.”
—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.