PACIFIC GROVE (CBS SF) — The Pacific Grove Police Department recently fired an officer under investigation for an inappropriate social media post last November, with Police Chief Cathy Madalone announcing Tuesday that the officer doesn’t work with the city “in any capacity.”
Madalone said back in November that the post in question, made on the social media platform Parler favored by alt-right users, Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists, was “F— Black Lives Matter.” The officer had been on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
While she did not identify or release any additional information about the officer who was investigated, the city in November said in a news release that it was “the same officer that had the controversial decals affixed to his vehicle that were reported to the city back in May of 2020.”
“Unfortunately, I am unable to disclose or comment any further due to legal constraints,” Madalone said in a written and video statement. “I understand you would like to have more details, and I would like to provide them to you, but based on the law, I am prohibited from commenting any further on this personnel matter.”
While Madalone did not identify the officer, a post on Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo identified the officer as Michael Gonzalez. The post said he had been “unlawfully terminated” for his political beliefs. As of Thursday morning, the post had generated more than $3,000 toward a goal of $15,000 to be used to support Gonzalez’s family and “possibly cover the costly and lengthy lawsuit and fight against the Pacific Grove Police Department and City of Pacific Grove.”
GiveSendGo has itself generated controversy, with PayPal cutting ties with the self-described “#1 free Christian fundraising site” because it hosts fundraisers for pro-Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol, and groups like the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identified as a “hate group.”
Monterey County Weekly reported that a citizen originally made a complaint against Gonzalez in June over stickers on his personal vehicle parked on city property, which included decals of the Three Percenters far-right militia group, and “Molon Labe,” a classical Greek phrase meaning “come and take them” used by gun rights supporters. The truck also sported thin blue line American flags, a Trump sticker and another mocking the LGBT community.
Pacific Grove hired an outside law firm to investigate Gonzalez while he was on paid administrative leave. He eventually returned to duty after being cleared of any wrongdoing.
In December, citizens sent the Monterey County Weekly screen shots of a verified Parler account belonging to the officer, showing posts echoing the call to free Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager accused of shooting and killing two protestors at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, WI, as well as the “F— Black Lives Matter” posts.
One day later on December 4, Madalone called a Sunday afternoon press conference to announce the officer was again being placed on leave pending outcome of an investigation.
In her video message on Wednesday, Madalone addressed city hiring practices, saying Pacific Grove “conducts very robust and comprehensive background investigations. Since I arrived in 2019, the police department has included review of social media accounts for all applicants within the police department.”
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