A few years back, I got a call from a client who was deeply afraid. He donated money to the defense of a pretty awful guy who was, the client believed, being silenced. The client was a believer in free speech, not the miscreant’s underlying cause or beliefs, and thought that he should support free speech for the worst in order to protect free speech for the rest of us. It was an ACLU kinda thing, back when they defended the Skokie Nazis and backed constitutional rights.
But he later feared that the names of donors would come out and people would mistakenly believe he was a supporter of the guy rather than a supporter of free speech. He wasn’t but, given the climate, would anybody care or believe him? His fear was justified, but what were the chances the names would go public? Today, the chances seem pretty damn good.
Somebody hacked the identities of contributors to Kyle Rittenhouse, and the Guardian published names. Was this newsworthy? It was if one’s idea of news is identifying people who supported someone they’re suppose to hate.
A data breach at a Christian crowdfunding website has revealed that serving police officers and public officials have donated money to fundraisers for accused vigilante murderers, far-right activists, and fellow officers accused of shooting black Americans.
It’s arguable that the donations of some people in positions of public trust would be information that the public should know. But the list included a guy named Craig Shepherd. Who, you ask? You know, that household name, Craig Shepherd, the paramedic from Utah.
The Guardian first reports that Friday morning, Craig Shepherd, a Utah paramedic, donated to a defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse.
The Guardian reports “This donor gave $10 to Rittenhouse on 30 August.”
That was five days after police say Rittenhouse shot the two protesters.
Did Rittenhouse shoot in self defense? Was he a defender against rioters trying to burn down Kenosha? More to the point, was the donation of $10 to his defense a big story? Apparently so.
The story was so big that ABC4 sent out its investigator to Shepherd’s house to get a statement. It was so big that they needed to let his employer know, sought comment and questioned whether he would be terminated from his job, a paramedic, for this donation.
We can confirm that Craig Shepherd is an employee of the West Valley City Fire Department. We have become aware of a donation made using his government email account. We are conducting an investigation into this matter, however, such a donation would be representative of personal actions and not those of West Valley City.
It was so big that the ABC4 report included this critical piece of news.
Shepherd will not be placed on administrative leave during this investigation. It’s not clear how long that will take.
What did ABC4 expect would be done with Shepherd? Probably the same thing that happened to Norfolk, Virginia, Police Lt. William Kelly.
A police lieutenant in Virginia lost his job this week after he contributed $25 to a legal-defense fund and expressed praise for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with killing two people last year during protests in Kenosha, Wis., officials said.
The lieutenant, William Kelly, a member of the Norfolk Police Department for nearly 19 years, was relieved of his duties on Tuesday by city officials, who said his conduct had violated the department’s policies and undermined the public’s faith in law enforcement.
It’s unclear what departmental policy this donation would have violated, just as it’s unclear how any departmental policy about an officer’s personal donations could survive First Amendment scrutiny. It’s a shame the New York Times brings it up without providing any information to support it, blaming it on the department for not elaborating. But did Kelly’s donation undermine public faith in him as a cop?
“God bless,” the message said. “Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong. Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”
Whether or not he’s right, he’s entitled to his views, and it’s likely his views are shared by many in law enforcement.
“His egregious comments erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve,” Mr. Filer said. “The City of Norfolk has a standard of behavior for all employees, and we will hold staff accountable.”
There are a few curious aspects to this, the first being that the information about Kelly wasn’t discovered because of Kelly putting it out publicly to let the community know his views, but was hacked and reported by the media. To the extent any community relations were harmed by his comments, it was caused by the media disclosing them.
But what is this “standard of behavior” of which they speak? To only hold approved political views? To only contribute to the “right” causes? To think only correct thoughts?
Kelly is a cop, a lieutenant, a 19-year veteran, and that carries baggage. He has the authority to exercise extreme discretion, from whom to arrest to the use of his service weapon to take a life. He holds a position of public trust, and the community is entitled to have faith in his exercise of that trust fairly. But his chief made no mention of any issue with Kelly’s performance of his duties, instead blaming Kelly for not sharing the department’s “values.”
Larry D. Boone, the city’s police chief, said in a statement on Tuesday that Lieutenant Kelly’s actions were not consistent with the department’s values.
“A police department cannot do its job when the public loses trust with those whose duty is to serve and protect them,” Chief Boone said. “We do not want perceptions of any individual officer to undermine the relations between the Norfolk Police Department and the community.”
Was the hack of the identities of donors to Rittenhouse designed to shame and punish people who contribute to “bad” people, to cut off the ability to fund the defense through crowdsourcing and to push governmental agencies to fire employees who might cause some citizens to protest or worse if they don’t terminate employees for their unwoke views? While Kelly made his personal views known by his comments, was Shepherd’s $10 really significant enough for an investigative journalist to knock on his door and ask his employer what punishment it imposed?