Friday, May 06, 2011
Cop in Facebook Scandal Back on Street
By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque Police Detective Trey Economidy, who made headlines for listing his job description as "human waste disposal" on his Facebook page, is back on the streets after more than two months on desk duty.
Police Chief Ray Schultz confirmed Thursday that Economidy had received "significant" discipline and was transferred from the APD Gang Unit to the Field Services Bureau.
The chief also confirmed that officer Jerry Hicks has been disciplined. Hicks made comments last year regarding the death of a prominent civil rights lawyer, posting on a publicly viewable Facebook page that there's "a special place in hell" for the attorney.
Schultz remained vague on the specifics of the discipline for the two officers, saying those are personnel matters. But he said Economidy, Hicks and several other officers "have made substantive changes to their personal Web pages, social media sites, etc."
Reporters discovered Economidy's post days after he fatally shot Jacob Mitschelen during a traffic stop in the Southeast Heights on Feb. 9.
Economidy was not qualified to use the .45 caliber handgun he used to shoot Mitschelen. Internal Affairs and criminal investigations into that issue and the shooting in general are ongoing.
Schultz launched a department-wide investigation into all officers' activities on social media websites after learning of Economidy's post.
One site the investigation focused on was a Facebook page called "Fans of the Albuquerque Police Department," which Schultz had been aware of before learning about Economidy's post.
That site was rife with posts from current and former officers and family members about people shot by police "getting what they deserve," negative comments about APD brass and other disparaging remarks.
The chief was not aware of the comments on the Fans website regarding attorney Mary Han. The comments were posted by Hicks, who at the time was a police union president candidate.
The message was in response to a news story about the death of Han, who often sued police officers in civil rights cases.
"Tragic I tell ya, just tragic," the posting says. "hahahaahahhahaah good riddence (sic), a special place in hell waiting for her."
APD, like other law enforcement agencies across the country, has been wrestling with how to balance officers' First Amendment rights with appropriate behavior on social networking sites, Schultz has said.
A local attorney representing, in a wrongful death lawsuit, the family of a man fatally shot by police last year is trying to get access to the Facebook pages of all 57 officers who were at the scene of that shooting.
In March, APD officials issued a comprehensive social media policy that says officers can't identify themselves as such on publicly accessible websites "without written permission from the Chief of Police or his designee."
APD has also brought in an Internal Affairs compliance officer, a position that had gone unfilled for about two years. The compliance officer randomly checks officers' social media pages, as well as whether driver's licenses are current, whether there are any unpaid traffic tickets and whether officers are current on child support and other issues.