Sterling Heights cop on leave over image mocking George Floyd's death

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

A Sterling Heights police officer is on unpaid leave while his department investigates a “disturbing image” posted on his private Facebook page mocking events that led to the death of George Floyd Jr. at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last year.

The officer, who has not been named by the department, became the focus of an internal investigation this week after a TV station reported his posting of an image of Floyd with Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck, accompanied by this caption: “When you gotta change a tire but don’t want to get your trousers dirty.”

George Floyd

Floyd, 46, was being arrested for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill at a business on May 25, 2020. Floyd subsequently died of asphyxia to the neck and back area, according to an autopsy, and it was determined Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes while other officers watched.

Chauvin was fired and has been charged in the death, which prompted international demonstrations over excessive force by police in arrests.

Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski was unavailable for comment Thursday beyond a statement issued by the city. Sterling Heights spokeswoman Melanie Davis said the matter is under investigation to determine what, if any, disciplinary action may be warranted against the officer.

“A screenshot of the posting was received by (TV station) WXYZ and they forwarded it to the police chief,” Davis said.

“The city is not discussing the content of the posting but is looking into the matter and we expect to have more to say later this week,” she said.

Davis said city employees, including in the police department, are required to adhere to a social media policy, which if violated, can lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Employees are advised they have the right to express themselves as private citizens as long as it doesn’t compromise “working relationships of the department, loyalty and confidentiality, impede the performance of duties, or negatively affect the public perception of the department.”

Davis directed The News to the following statement issued Thursday by the city that said, in part:

“The city of Sterling Heights disavows the abhorrent imagery and messaging that appeared in the post. Immediate action was taken by the Police Chief upon learning of it, including placing the officer on unpaid administrative leave and initiating an internal disciplinary investigation. The Police Department is committed to completing the investigation and disciplinary process as quickly as possible." 

The statement continued: "It must be clear that there is no place for hateful and offensive content like that within our community. It does a grave disservice to the City, the dedicated men and women of the Police Department who protect and serve each and every Sterling Heights resident and business, and all those who call it home. “We remain committed to building and ensuring a tolerant and accepting city that is inclusive and safe for all.”

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