Rochester police officer put on leave over offensive Facebook posts
A Rochester police officer has been placed on administrative leave for allegedly posting racially offensive material to Facebook.
Police Chief Roger Peterson confirmed Monday that Officer Ben Schlag, who joined the department in 2011, has been "relieved of duty pending an investigation into this matter." He declined to release any further information, citing state privacy rules.
The group Rochester for Justice posted screenshots of Officer Schlag's posts to its Facebook account last Friday. One of the images shows a vehicle running over protesters with the caption "nobody cares about your protest." Another shows an edited map with the Middle East wiped out, with the words "there, I fixed it."
In addition to the screenshots, the group wrote a letter calling on the department to fire Schlag, stating that "he has made it clear that he does not respect or value the lives of the citizens of color he is sworn to protect and serve."
"For the safety and welfare of the citizens of Rochester he must be removed from having the ability to endanger our lives and sanctity of our civil rights," the note reads. "He has very publicly admitted a deep disregard for Muslim and Black members of our community."
In a separate letter addressed to city leaders, the Minnesota-based advocacy group Me to We Racial Healing included another screenshot of a post by Schlag that reads: "Studies show that Muslim Radicals are less prone to violence after they've been shot in the fucking face."
Here's an excerpt from the letter:
Mr. Schlag’s comments show a clear pattern of disregard for systemic and interconnected realities and a distinct disrespect for people of color and people who care about racial justice.
His comments furthermore show deficiencies in critical/higher order thinking capacities that balance diverse realities, a persistent and callous disregard for the lives of others, as well as a lack of understanding of civil disobedience and non-violent demonstration practices commonly used in justice and equality efforts worldwide.
According to the letter, Schlag's posts were public up until last week. It is unclear how long an investigation will take; however, the department said Monday that it plans to make it a top priority in the coming days.
Just last week, a St. Paul police officer resigned after making similar statements on social media. According to media reports, the officer urged Facebook users to run over Black Lives Matter protesters.
(Cover graphic: File / CC)