Baltimore Officer Suspended After Calling Protesters ‘Thugs’

BALTIMORE — A vice president of Baltimore’s police union has been suspended after sending an email to the entire department that referred to demonstrators as “thugs.”

Police Lt. Victor Gearhart was referring to a group protesting the state Fraternal Order of Police conference at a downtown hotel.

Department spokesman T.J. Smith said Police Commissioner Kevin Davis was “outraged by the email.” Smith said the message “is not representative of the men and women of this agency.”

This is not the first time Gearhart has been disciplined for his online comments. He was reassigned from patrol to security this year after engaging in arguments with activists on social media. With the support of the union, he sued alleging that his reassignment was an unconstitutional violation of his right to free speech.

Gearhart could not be reached for comment Tuesday. A woman who identified herself as his wife told The Associated Press to contact a union attorney, who did not immediately return a phone message.

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(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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