Republican lawmakers defend Capitol Cops chief’s posts on Facebook – Press Herald

22January 2021

A big group of Republican state legislators issued a letter supporting Capitol Authorities Chief Russell Gauvin, saying his free speech rights were broken when he was temporarily changed over social media posts he made questioning the outcomes of the U.S. presidential election and the effectiveness of masking to prevent COVID-19.

The letter from 69 Republicans and one independent, dated Thursday and dealt with to Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck, asserts that Democratic legislators squashed Gauvin’s First Change rights when they required this week that he be placed on administrative leave while the state investigates the posts.

“The dissentious effort by legislative Democrats to force ideological conformity on all around them or face loss of career and livelihood is a betrayal of the office they were elected to hold,” the letter states. The letter was written by Rep. Matthew Harrington, R-Sanford, who is a full-time policeman in Kennebunk.

Those signing the letter consist of the Republican minority leaders in both the House and the Senate, and Rep. John Andrews, an independent from Paris. Andrews left the Republican Celebration in December after a disagreement over legislative committee assignments.

Gauvin is chief of Capitol Police, a 13-member force tasked with providing security in the State House and Capitol complex.

Posts, memes and responses Gauvin shared on Facebook supported false claims about the November election results, questioned the efficiency of masking to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and revealed sympathy for a post that supported using deadly force by police as ways to stop Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The posts were exposed in a report by the alternative news publication, Mainer, officially called the Bollard.

In November, Gauvin published that he had “zero self-confidence” in the outcomes of the election that saw Joe Biden defeat President Trump. He also shared a post that described the election as “a psychological operation of impressive proportions.”

The posts were exposed simply as state homes throughout the country were bracing for possible violent demonstrations in the wake of an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 following a rally with previous President Donald Trump.

In the wake of the insurrection, the FBI cautioned police in all 50 states that mention capitol buildings might be targets for additional violence by those protesting the results of the 2020 elections.

The personal account with the posts has because been erased and Gauvin released an apology for his actions last Friday. Democrats required today that he be put on administrative leave, and on Wednesday Sauschuck momentarily replaced him with Lt. Robert Elliot, a 32-year veteran of the force.

Both Sauschuck and Gov. Janet Mills have actually said Gauvin’s apology was required, and Mills said the posts were uncomfortable.

Katy England, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, stated Friday that Elliot was heading the Capitol Cops which Sauschuck had gotten the letter from the Republican lawmakers about the investigation into Gauvin’s posts.

“The evaluation is being carried out in an independent manner, by state federal government personnel specialists, and is grounded in state policy,” England stated in an email. She stated an amount of time for when the review would be completed has actually not been developed.

State policy stipulates that “personal off-duty usage of social media technologies may be the proper topic of state review and restorative action where there is a nexus in between the individual use and the work environment.” The policy goes on to state that personal usage of social media outside of work is subject to First Modification securities.

“Nevertheless, where such individual use belongs to subject matter important to state work, it needs to be carried out in such a way that no impression is developed that the employee is speaking on behalf of the company,” the policy states.

In recent months law enforcement officers throughout the nation have actually come under increasing criticism for their abuse of both main and individual social media accounts. Labor Relations Details Systems, an Oregon business that provides training and info for public security officials and unions, has released a podcast with a series of guidelines on social media posts for managers, union officials and law enforcement officers.

Will Aitchison, the founder and executive director of Labor Relations Info Systems, talked about social media posts in a podcast after George Floyd was killed by cops in Minneapolis last summer season.

Aitchison cautions in the podcast that cops and other public security employees typically overestimate the extent to which their social networks posts are safeguarded under the First Change.

“Public security workers are frequently definitely specific that what they say on social networks is constitutionally protected which certainty lacks the advantage of having actually read one case on the concern,” Aitchison stated. He stated the pace of disciplinary actions versus police officers for social networks posts and the severity of the punishment is increasing.

“Prior to you get out there and state what you believe needs to be said about the extraordinary disruptions that we are going through in our society right now,” he said, “prior to you discuss a protest or a politician or any of the gamers in this national drama that we remain in today– believe.”

He added that social networks posts need to be done thoughtfully and thoroughly. “If you publish things thoughtlessly, if you post things just to stir the pot, if you publish things just because you believe they require saying, that’s when you are putting your tasks at threat,” he cautioned.

In their letter Thursday, Republicans argue that Gauvin did not violate any state policies and his right to reveal himself freely online, as long as he does not present those viewpoints as the position of the firm he leads, should not be a topic for criticism.

“As Capitol Cops chief, Chief Gauvin has actually done an admirable task,” the Republican letter checks out. “He has acted professionally and without favor towards the security of everyone working and going to the Capitol.”

Gauvin previously served on the Portland Cops Department, starting in 1980 and retiring as a captain in 2006. His time on the Portland force overlapped with Sauschuck’s. He joined the department in 1997 and increased through the ranks to end up being chief in 2011. Sauschuck left to end up being Portland’s assistant city supervisor prior to joining Mills’ administration as commissioner of public security in 2019.

According to the state’s online open records portal, Maine Open Checkbook, Gauvin was paid a salary of $90,000 in 2019 and his overall benefit plan, including retirement, health and life insurance coverage, is valued at $112,418.

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