A Los Angeles police sergeant who was repeatedly reprimanded over social media posts, including those about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and rapper Nipsey Hussle, has accused his superiors of punishing based on his political beliefs.
Sgt. Joel Sydanmaa has sued the LAPD, claiming he was disciplined for “expressing his opinions, as a private citizen, while off-duty, on his personal social media accounts, about matters of public concern,” according to the lawsuit.
In 2015, Sydanmaa was formally reprimanded after the Council on American-Islamic Relations complained about a graphic he posted on Facebook titled “Japan keeps Islam at bay by putting restrictions on Islam and ALL Muslims.”
In 2018, he was accused of “shaming” the women who alleged that Kavanaugh had sexual harassed or assaulted them when he posted a lengthy breakdown of the allegations and and concluded that “there’s no way that Kavanaugh can be proven guilty.”
Then, a year later, Sydanmaa baselessly claimed on Instagram that Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down on March 31, 2019, was a gang member who “perpetuated the criminal gang lifestyle and the anti-police sentiment in this country” with his lyrics and “chose the lifestyle that ultimately killed him.”
For that, he was suspended for one day.
On the other hand, Sydanmaa argues in the lawsuit, other officers, including LAPD Chief Michel Moore, were kneeling with Black Lives Matter protesters, which he considers the same as his political posts.
“Sgt. Sydanmaa is harmed psychologically, reputationally and emotionally by being formally disciplined on multiple occasions by the LAPD for expressing his views on matters of public concern in his speech as a private citizen on his personal social media accounts,” the lawsuit reads.
“Sgt. Sydanmaa experiences the additional psychological and emotional harms of having his future speech chilled and deterred for as long as he remains an LAPD employee. The LAPD’s actions were a slap in the face of the Constitution, but it is Sgt. Sydanmaa who feels that slap most acutely.”
Sydanmaa is seeking more than $1 million in damages.
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