HILLSDALE, Mo. — A Hillsdale officer has been suspended after making comments about the death of George Floyd on Facebook, according to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell.
Bell said several people contacted his office after the officer’s comments appeared on Facebook earlier this month and sent him images of them. Bell and the Hillsdale police chief declined to name the officer, who has since removed the posts from Facebook.
But 5 On Your Side viewed the posts before they were deleted.
The officer wrote: “If you’re speaking, you’re breathin.”
Another commenter posted: “ ... STOP!!!!!! You need to go to sleep. Night.”
He responded: “But I can’t breathe.”
Another commenter then posted: “Soooo not funny. Let me handcuff you and put my knee in back of your neck for HALF that time.”
The officer responded with a gif comment showing a black actor crying on a pillow.
George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck while other officers knelt on the rest of his body. Floyd can be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” The officers have all been charged.
As a result of the Hillsdale officer’s social media posts, Bell said he called Hillsdale Police Chief John Bernsen to tell him he would no longer be taking cases from the officer involved in the posts. He told the chief he would also be examining any cases the officer has been involved with in the past to see if they could still be prosecuted without the officer as an essential witness.
Bell said he was pleased to hear from Bernsen that the officer had already been suspended.
Bell and Bernsen declined to name the officer, but Bernsen said the officer had worked for the department for about eight months. The social media posts appear to have been removed.
“When we're talking about officers, we're not talking about just your average everyday individuals,” Bell said. “These are people who are who are constantly and consistently interacting with the public who are held to a higher standard, such as myself.
“As an elected official, we have to be responsible for the words that we put out there and the information that we put out there.”
Bernsen referred all other questions from 5 On Your Side to the city’s attorney, Alan Baker, who could not be reached for comment.
“I have to tip my hat to the chief for taking proactive actions toward these inappropriate posts, because again, these are public posts,” Bell said. “These are posts and information that is broadcast out to the world.
“And we're and we're talking about a particularly tenuous time that we're facing now, in which we have protests all over the country, including this region and for legitimate reasons. We all saw what happened with Mr. Floyd and how he was killed and it was caught on camera. And this is not the time for reckless and inappropriate comments.”
Bell also said this officers’ actions are not indicative of the officers who have been on the front lines of violence that has erupted following protests.
“I've been very encouraged at the restraint and that they've conducted themselves,” Bell said. “Those are individuals that are out there on the front lines.
“And then to see another officer just making these kind of irresponsible comments, as far as I'm concerned as the St. Louis County prosecutor, and I think I speak for a lot of people in this region, constituents and citizens, this type of irresponsible behavior will not be tolerated.”
Hillsdale is a small municipality in north St. Louis County.