LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

LMPD officer suspended for Facebook posts sues chief claiming free speech violation


A Louisville Metro Police officer suspended 30 days and demoted for controversial Facebook posts he shared last year has filed a federal lawsuit against Chief Steve Conrad, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.

In November, Chief Conrad said that Officer Ryan Scanlan's postings in the wake of protests following police shootings of two black men last year "brought discredit" to the officer and "had a negative impact on the efficient operations of our department."

The 30-day suspension was the department's most severe discipline short of termination. Scanlan was also removed from his detective position and transferred to a uniformed patrol assignment.

Last month, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Scanlan in Jefferson Circuit Court, arguing the posts were on his private Facebook page, which "did not emphasize" that he was a Louisville police officer.

In addition, the suit, which was moved to federal court Monday, claims Scanlan shared five different posts on his Facebook page that "touched upon matters of public concern" and were created by somebody else.

Initially, Scanlan was told Conrad was firing him for the posts but, after the two met,he was instead suspended.

Scanlan shared several controversial posts on his personal Facebook page, including a meme that pictured a white police officer leaning against his cruiser that said: "If we really wanted you dead all we'd have to do is stop patrolling your neighborhoods. .... And wait."

In late July, a judge ordered Scanlan to testify in a criminal trial about his posts. He testified that the meme he shared was directed to "the citizens of the united states of America."

"So it's not directed to anybody in particular?" defense attorney Clay Kennedy asked at the time. "No racial group?"

"Absolutely not," Scanlan responded. "You take any neighborhood in America and if they realize the police are not patrolling, crime would go through the roof."

In the lawsuit, Scanlan argues the postings on his Facebook page concern matters of public concern and "constitutes free speech."

The postings were the speech of a "private citizen," not something involving his role as a police officer, according to the suit.

LMPD does not discuss pending litigation.

Conrad "acted intentionally and with callous disregard for Mr. Scanlan's clearly established constitutional rights," according to the suit.

Scanlan suffered "severe damages," including loss of salary, employment benefits, business opportunities and mental distress such as humiliation and emotional anguish, the suit claims.

The suit is seeking a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages.

Among the posts Scanlan shared was one about the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Has it occurred to anyone that if you're able to organize this many people for a protest" the meme starts, with the words on top of a picture of dozens of black people holding a Black Lives Matter banner. "You can organize this many people to clean up your community and get rid of the criminal element causing the problem."

In another post, Scanlan shared a meme headlined, "It's NOT about color. It's about the law."

The image featured a series of crudely-drawn figures of people depicting what happens to someone if they don't move when if an officer tells them to "stop."

If a person stops, the result is getting handcuffed, according to the meme.

But the image associated with not stopping is different. It shows what appears to be a police officer getting attacked, followed by the figure of someone lying on the ground bleeding with three holes in the body and a caricature of an officer handcuffing the person.

"If you understand this ... please share. If you are still confused ... please keep studying it."

The posts from Scanlan came just days after Louisville officials, law enforcement and community activists called on the city to band together following the shooting of the two black men and sniper shootings in Dallas that left five police officers dead and six injured.