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Pleasantville Cop Accepts 60-day Suspension for Obama Facebook Slurs

Mayor Peter Scherer announced that police officer Peter Burns will also lose 25 vacation days and attend a training program focused on diversity and sensitivity, among other conditions.

The Village of Pleasantville Board of Trustees at its Jan. 27 public meeting. / Photo credit: Michael Nocella
The Village of Pleasantville Board of Trustees at its Jan. 27 public meeting. / Photo credit: Michael Nocella

After a month-long investigation, Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer announced the disciplinary actions for police officer Peter Burns, who posted racist comments on Facebook about President Barack Obama in December

Burns has accepted the following conditions, which included advice from Pleasantville’s legal counsel, recommendations from Police Chief Richard Love, and discussions with Burns and his PBA attorney:

  • A 60-day suspension, without pay or benefits
  • Forfeiture of 25 vacations days
  • A fitness-for-duty assessment by a Village-selected provider
  • A training program focused on diversity and sensitivity
  • A two-year “last-chance” agreement following his return to duty

Scherer explained the rationale behind the verdict in a village Board of Trustees public meeting Monday, Jan. 27.

“The posting was offensive on many levels – its obscenity, its racial language, and its implied threats to the President,” he said.

“These statements undermine confidence in law enforcement, and they cast doubt on the ability of this officer to fulfill his sworn duties in a fair, unbiased manner. I want to be clear that the Village has no interest in political beliefs of its employees. We do, however, have a fundamental interest in ensuring that the statements and actions of our employees do not harm their ability to fulfill their responsibilities,” he added.

Scherer said the police department conducted a comprehensive investigation, and that the village spent many hours reviewing this incident, the rights of employers and employees, the special responsibilities borne by police officers, and “the evolving legal and policy issues that surround social media communications." He said Burns has apologized to Pleasantville residents, Love and his colleagues, and confirmed a personal commitment to earn the trust of all his future service.

“As we move forward from this incident, we remind everyone of the bedrock commitment of this community and its Village Board – that every resident of Pleasantville, every visitor, every person passing through this good place, deserves confidence that they will be fairly and equally treated, regardless of race, faith or personal beliefs,” Scherer said.

“Your elected board, your police chief and his officers, and your village administration renew that commitment today,” he added.

Michele February 03, 2014 at 09:34 AM
Freedom of speech is one thing; but anyone, especially a public servant, has a responsibility to stand up for what is right and discriminatory and ignorant thoughts should not be made, whether on Facebook, in private, or in public. Wherever those sickening statements were made, and freedom of speech, are not the issues here. The issue is that a man who is on the police force holds these beliefs which are hurtful and harmful and can cause the wrongful death of someone like Danroy Henry. And calling President Obama a Muslim sympathizer is just another example of hatred and bigotry. How about calling him a man of honor who is trying to resolve problems with others without resorting to war right away? The ignorance, prejudice and bias I see here is absolutely disheartening and sickening. It is the highest form of ignorance.
Dan Seidel February 03, 2014 at 11:06 AM
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright questioned how far POTUS has come reconciling his muslim faith with Christianity - remember that one? talk about ignorance. al-wala' w'al-bara', Michelle. look it up. I didn't write that either. I agree - ignorance prevents reasoned decisions - so let's learn.
Michele February 03, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Let's learn what? If Obama is a Muslim, so be it....they aren't all extremists.
Please! February 04, 2014 at 11:04 AM
It's funny how hate speech is always made behind the shield of a computer and never directly to a person's face. Such a society of cowards we have let the internet make us. This is the best we can do in front of our kids?
Dan Seidel February 04, 2014 at 12:56 PM
Obama being muslim makes a big difference. Allegiance is to Allah, NOT the Constitution or the US. you did not look up the dogma I posted, did you. please do - there is only one Qur'an and it is immutable. look up duality and abrogation in islam. eye opener.

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