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.

PatchRat January 28, 2014 at 10:14 AM
The author refers to the compromise reached between Burns and Pleasantville as a “verdict.” I would encourage Patch to immediately correct this language as it is not only a misrepresentation of the outcome but also opens Patch to a libel claim. No one was tried. No one was found guilty. There was no admission of guilt. Thus, no verdict.
PatchRat January 28, 2014 at 10:23 AM
Pleasantville was wise to back away from any attempt to fire this officer. Clearly, as stated in the article, the village spent many hours reviewing this incident, the rights of employers and employees and the evolving legal and policy issues that surround social media communications. They came to the same conclusions I came to in my earlier posts. They had no case. The outcome is a compromise that allows the Village to save political face after much blustering and posturing among Village officials as well as Village residents. Below are my original comments when this story first broke.
PatchRat January 28, 2014 at 10:24 AM
I posted these comments back when this story first broke: This is a case of Governments and employers (here, one in the same) reaching much too far into the private lives of their employees and, in the process, shredding the United States Constitution. Ultra-left-leaning LoHud/Journal News, as well as other left leaning media and news outlets like The Patch and their parent company AOL and sister company Huffington-Post, are covering this story from a far-left political perspective. In fact, this private citizen has every right to register an online account and use any pen name he desires. He also has a Constitutional right to free speech. The accounts to date do not reveal any actual or perceived threat to the President. Many may dislike what was said. Many may disagree with what was said. Many may feel that what was said was in poor taste or disrespectful. But, this is still the United States of America and our right to free speech (especially political and religious free speech) are well protected under the Constitution. The left-wing media doesn't see it that way. If you attack their love-child Obama, they shred you like ground beef. It seems to me that Burns now has a doosy of a lawsuit he can and should file against his employer. The losers here will be the tax-payers in Pleasantville when Burns wins a seven figure judgment, retires early and keeps his full pension. I would also add that, while Liberals don't care for the labels, President Obama has certainly earned his reputation as a Muslim Sympathizer, based on his handling of a variety of issues in the Middle East. Likewise, he has certainly earned his reputation as a Socialist Idealogue, based on his entire track record and capped by his ramming of Obamacare down the throats of the American people. Vladimir Lenin wrote, "Socialized medicine is the cornerstone of the arch of the Socialist State." In plain English - once THEY control YOUR healthcare, THEY control YOU - period.
New York Patriot January 28, 2014 at 12:18 PM
Similar issues seem to exist in schools where principals and others are invading the privacy of children's social media accounts. It's a similar issue because the school only has the right to do so if the alleged issue happened on school property or at a school function. Just as Pleasantville had no business prying into this issue as it did not happen on the job or from a Village issued device.
Tank Hammer January 29, 2014 at 09:43 PM
Yeah, so i guess it's okay to be an openly racist cop for a known corrupt police department nowadays....
New York Patriot January 30, 2014 at 11:20 AM
Actually, he was not "openly" racist. He was racist in private, on his own time, on the internet, under a pseudonym. Reminds me of the bit by comedian Ron White where he gets thrown out of a bar and then gets charged with being drunk in public. The punch line is something like - I wasn't drunk in public, I was drunk in a bar, they threw me out into public.
Clark Westfield January 30, 2014 at 02:23 PM
Racist in private is more dangerous. This is a disgrace.
New York Patriot January 31, 2014 at 04:07 PM
"Inverted political correctness?" No, TP, it is just a different view than yours. Your post is an example of the ironic intolerance of the left. And, you really must get your facts correct. The officer did anything but "openly" espouse his point of view within the context of his being a police officer. He did it as a private citizen, in private, without identifying himself by name and certainly not identifying himself as a police officer. He also made no threats to the President. While you are at it TP, you might skim the U.S. Constitution. At least the parts where we have freedom of speech and freedom of the press and freedom of religion and all that fun stuff. The privilege of being an American comes along with the privilege to think and believe and say and write and pray to whatever you want - regardless of whether it is popular, politically correct or offensive. Regarding the legitimacy of his presidency, Obama claims to have attended elementary school in Indonesia during a period of time when he would have had to, by law there, renounce his U.S. Citizenship (if he in fact was a U.S. Citizen, born in Hawaii as he claims). Renouncing and then regaining his U.S. Citizenship would disqualify him to be president, regardless of where he was born. If that didn't disqualify him, the fact that his resume was a blank page should have. He has been the most miserable failure of a president since Jimmy Carter. Regarding Obama's political ideology, he spent his entire life influenced by Muslim Sympathizers, Extreme Socialist Ideologues and a host of others who preach venom for and the demise of America as we know it.
Danielle K February 02, 2014 at 07:49 AM
If everyone is so aggitated about him being openly racist...why doesn't anyone get on Al Sharpton or Fernando Mateo for being openly "biased"??? It's quite alright in America these days to blame "whites", which in and of itself is STEREOTYPING and RACIST in its own right...however, voice your opinion about another race, non-European, Arabic, Asian, alien, Martian...and that particular group has been oppressed...beaten down...held back...and inequivalent... I, personally feel a person is by what's inside...black, white, beige, yellow, purple, green...we all bleed the same color...however, with the over - exercising of our God given rights and the laws of our own democratic Constitution, whites...who have been oppressed...think how NYC was built...think Holocaust...think communism...these are small, yet deplorable examples of how different races of white colored people were held down, paid little to nothing, starved, forced to work, killed, threatened, separated...and the "white" race is not crying RACISM at every turn. This country has turned into a Reverse Racist mess and every citizen is so afraid to say something, it's disgusting. This police officer had every right to say what he felt - as per our fore-fathers - in the country YOU choose to live in...in the country President Obama chooses to run...did he make bad judgement putting it on FB? Probably... But why can't he express his feelings - as long as he has no tarnished record at work. Some of the people at IA should remember what it's like to be that beat cop or detective...becoming jaded when society sees YOU as the menace... As opposed to having the respect we once did. Maybe that's where the problem begins... And any extremist commenting here otherwise I gather would be too closed minded or "wise" to look further than the floor in front of them... We have become a faithless, disrespectful afraid society. Anyone who thinks teaching "tolerance" is going to integrate us is a clown...collectively, society needs to be overhauled and revamped. The scales are not even again and teaching tolerance when groups APPEAR entitled and/or overly protected is hilarious. Get real folks...I'm not political whatsoever. I am however really done with how politics separates, rather then unites different races, as a whole...and we...as pawns buy into it...making great news, still disintegrating our strength as nation, community, and self. Sorry for the rant.
Danielle K February 02, 2014 at 08:04 AM
In comment to one other writer... "Racism in private is more dangerous"- I would love to hear your thoughts after an awful day...either at work, home, life and "THAT" person cuts you off, gives you the finger and calls you a racists slur as they walk slowly through the GREEN light past your car. Let me propose... As you're sitting in your car...at that GREEN light, waiting for Mr/Mrs entitled to walk by...who is openly annoyed by you bc you are (insert race)....are you lovingly, with peace and compassion, empathy and American pride looking adoringly at this intruder...wondering if his/her childhood was oppressed bc mommy worked too many hours or daddy wasn't involved? Or...are you like most NY'ers (stereotype for purpose) feel violated and attacked- could care less about his/her day/life/family and just wish they would move their idiotic (insert race) rump out of your way? How dare they call you a (insert racist slur). That hypothetical situation, my friend is how many people are openly racist in private and too afraid to admit we're different. If you laughed when reading it- don't throw stones at the cop. If you're appalled, you're a liar. (Insert human error and psyche)
Jim McKean February 02, 2014 at 08:11 AM
If he'd actually tried to kill him, they could give him the Policeman of the Year Award. That's the Pleasantville way: shoot and kill an unarmed black person, and get the town's highest award.
PC Lover February 02, 2014 at 08:50 AM
I think he can rant whatever he like about Obamas politics, but IMHO he crossed the line on his alias. Coon Hunter? Unless he wears a Davy Crocket coonskin hat that matches his self appointed moniker, indicating we misread his double entendre and he really hunts racoons, then I think he crossed the line and needs to go. What other racist alias is acceptable for a police officer who is sworn to serve and protect to give himself? Whitey Whacker? Kike Killer? Chink Murderer? Spic Slasher? We don't need to tolerate that kind of robust and vehement racism from our employees. And yes...some people may have racist thoughts from time to time on all sides of the human race, but most good people keep them to themselves and don't establish a web presence or web site to write about, share and espouse those views. It is disgraceful and I don't see how he be trusted to perform the duties of his job in a fair and respectful way to all.
Joseph J Gannon February 02, 2014 at 10:13 AM
60 days pay plus 25 days vacation + +? Absolutely and positively over the top. This is a political response. The officer's conduct is highly injudicious. He is a public servant. But he never waived his First Amendment Right to Free Speech. Here's the true harm: his effectiveness as an officer is impaired and impaired irrevocably. His testimony in court and other enforcement actions will come into question by any sharp attorney representing a minority. Having said that, this President bears a larger responsibility in creating and fostering this environment.
Jim McKean February 02, 2014 at 10:22 AM
Great news for Pleasantville! George Zimmerman has been hired to take over the Community Safety program. And Paula Deene has been hired to oversee Community Outreach -- in particular, the new "Bull Connor Public Safety Awareness Day."
Dan Seidel February 02, 2014 at 10:41 AM
I would have chosen different words to describe POTUS as a traitor, a nauseating p.o.s., a Manchurian placed into our White House who every effort has been to destroy America and the US constitution, but hey: that's me. I'd would say we need to tar and feather Imam Obama and run him out of town on a rail. POTUS IS a clear and present danger to America and he should be arrested, tried for high Crimes and Misdemeanors and then jailed for life. #FastAndFurious, #Benghazi, #IRS, #NSA, #TPP, #DHS, #FEMA, #2A, #4A , #Ikhwan, #MuslimBrotherhood #PMOI, precrime detection/loss of privacy - use those hashtags on Twitter - see what pops up. The cop should have said "truth" is the defense.
PC Lover February 02, 2014 at 11:30 AM
Patchers, do you think he was suspended and spanked more due to his political leanings or racist comments, or both? There have always been people with strong political disagreement on both sides of the aisle. Current and past, POTUS has never suffered from a shortage of critics and criticism. IMHO political disagreement and rants are acceptable...racism and threats not so much....especially from a cop. Your thoughts?
amerpatriot February 02, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Mr McKean your sarcasm belies you. A reminder, George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges. Never convicted of anything. His trial was a failed attempt at Leftist Propaganda. To continue using his name & incident to foster your own contempt of American values puts you somewhat at odds with the Laws of the Land.
Jim McKean February 02, 2014 at 01:58 PM
The disgusting comments of these so-called patriots is a sad reminder that bigotry, hatred, and ignorance are abroad in the land. Laughable, if it weren't so poisonous. Go on, little men, preen and rant, revel in your paranoia. I bet you all have Confederate flags on your bumpers.
Jim McKean February 02, 2014 at 02:02 PM
"A Manchurian." Actually, if you look at the entire post as ironic parody, it's really pretty funny -- even hits the old standby, the anti-Muslim slurs. But watch out for those bogus hashtag twitter accounts -- they actually redirect you to online porn sites.
Please! February 02, 2014 at 03:44 PM
Help me to understand something here. Since when has "freedom of speech" become hate speech? Just like it's all of a sudden ok to spew venom and hatred online, those that do, should expect the backlash that normally follows it. There was a time pre internet when the public's opinion was not so widely seen as it is now. I don't know if people had more class and respect back then, but they did not say evil things in public. Now that technology has encouraged cowardice behavior, people are spewing hatred left and right and are appalled at the reaction they get. Our president is our president regardless if you don't agree with anything he has done or the color of his skin. People should learn how to have the same class they once had and leave the venom spewing to the dinner table. This police officer got what he deserved. The evil that exists between the far extremist right and the far extremist left is scary. Civil war scary.
Jim McKean February 02, 2014 at 03:59 PM
Exactly. Gannon, above says that "this president bears a large responsibility in creating and fostering this environment." That's completely unture -- quite the opposite. Obama has made several speeches about social responsibility -- and race -- at some very emotional, heated times. His speech after Gabby Giffords and all those poor people were shot, and then after Sandy hook, were as thoughtful and heartfelt as any I have ever heard. Time after time again he has tried to help make sense of this insane senseless violence that plagues our country, inflicted by those whose only and best answer is hate. The only responsibilty I can see, in the comments of people like Gannon, is that he is black. Gannon goes on to say "any sharp attorney representing a minority." A minority. Are you serious? That kind of talk is not just code word at work, it's a rlic of some distant time. My kids, and yours, would look at him like, what are you talking about? It makes you wonder what kind of awful world he lives in -- walking down the street, identifying different minorities. Hispanic, black, Chinese (oops, maybe Korean? Japanese? So hard to tell), Jewish, Filippino (wait, that's Hispanic), Cuban, all those little Central American places -- on and on and on. The sad thing is that he, and these other adamant 'patriots', would never ever be able to see what is actually there: a human being. It's a 'minority.' It's disgusting and shameful to hear that kind of talk: and the only proper response is derision and ridicule.
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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