New London police union says department's request over website posting has 'chilling effect'

New London - The union representing New London police expressed frustration this week over what it claims is an internal review by department leadership into a posting on the union's website.

At issue is a posting asserting that a Fox television news reporter was "verbally assaulted" while trying to collect information from the police department. The posting went on to say, "The city should take a proactive stand and take all action necessary to assure his (the reporter's) safety."

It is unclear if the posting remains on the website.

AFSCME Council 15, in the statement issued Friday, said the posting led to a request from a department captain that union Treasurer Roger Baker submit information outlining where the information originated, what statements were made and who authorized the posting. Baker, who manages the content on the website, was asked to submit a "subscribed memorandum," which is a sworn statement notarized by a supervisor.

"There certainly is a chilling effect when internal affairs investigations are begun," union attorney Eric Brown said in a statement. "The First Amendment is a cherished right, and neither police officers nor union members are required to give up that right to free speech when they go to work for a police department."

The internal review appears to be "an attempt by the department to interfere with internal union operations," Brown said in the statement.

The website has long been used as a platform for the recognition of officers' achievements, political updates and often an outlet for criticism of police department and city leadership and policies.

Local Union President Todd Lynch called the investigation part of "an ongoing attack against our union and specifically executive board members."

The union made similar claims in December after union Vice President Officer David McElroy was fired for allegedly leaking an internal police document about an alleged rape and lying about it. McElroy was rehired in March.

The rape, which was later discounted by investigators as being a consensual act, led to a flurry of criticism of the department.

Lynch, who has a pending lawsuit against Chief Margaret Ackley, said the request for information "crosses the line."

"To try and order somebody to tell you where you got information is ridiculous. We look at it as trying to silence the union, which will not happen, not as long as I'm president," Lynch said.

Deputy Chief Peter Reichard said he could not comment on any ongoing investigations or "internal matters under formal review."

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio on Friday issued a statement saying, "We will review the matter and examine the union's complaint."


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