Small Town – Free Speech – Police Officer Suspended


There is a new meme going around Ohio and it’s from my hometown.   Vermilion doesn’t get much large press – if it does make out past the county level it is either due to a drunken lawn mower operator or an icy hot based revenge.   However over the last year the Vermilion Police have made the local papers a bit.   Thankfully none of these stories rate (or shouldn’t rate) any news coverage.  The latest one today though, that is likely going to be spread about the state.   The above picture was shared on Facebook today with the following message:

“I am Captain Michael Reinheimer of the Vermilion Police Department. On Sat. Nov. 7 2015, I was given and wore a button on my uniform jacket to show my support for Legalization in 2016 while I conducted our annual police auction.

Today I was placed on administrative leave by the Mayor of the City of Vermilion Eileen Bulan [REDACTED] specifically for showing my support for legalization by wearing this pin.

I will find out more later today. Right now your support would be appreciated. I stand tall behind my beliefs and my support is unconditional. Please share with anyone who supports legalization.”

Yes, I’m playing into the ploy specifically by writing about it.   Everyone seems to have a different opinion.   One of the things everyone fails to realize is a line written by one of the local papers on the matter:

Hartung [VPD Chief] said employees are not allowed to utilize the department to advocate for any political issue regardless of any potential controversy.

That should be the heart of it – taking an opinion on a political issue shouldn’t be something a public official that is not in a political role should do. When I worked at the government there was a fear that when Obama took over for Bush that a few jobs would change.   They did not, but they could of.   Advocating at work or as a representative of your place of employment is always risking hot water.   The fact that this was a police officer in uniform – makes it worse.

I agree the suspension might be harsh, but then again there might be a history of work issues we are not aware of.   We can agree that this would have been less likely to happen if it was an anti-legalization pin or even something more mundane like cancer support.  Since pro-legalization is a hot bed Ohio issue now.   The mayor was likely making an example of this since it is a political issue.   That is what happens sometimes, some people are just victims that the system makes an example of.   That is not wrong.   What is wrong is not having consistent punishment of breaches in the future.

The title of the piece was chosen on purpose.  Those sections are the take aways most people around the state are going to remember.   That Vermilion is a small town and the gossip last week in the papers was an officer that had an affair (to give you an idea of what makes a big news story).   That some people think this is a free speech issue.   It is not.   If he was on his own time and suspended, that would be a free speech issue.   Yet he was in uniform and sporting a pin.   The fact the officer was suspended is the easiest thing to remember.

If the pin was anti-legalization – this would be a non-starter.   It wouldn’t have the controversy with the exception of a handful of people showing support.  It definitely wouldn’t have raised the Facebook radar enough to write a newspaper article on it.   The problem is that so many people are sympathetic to the legalization cause.  They can’t separate that fact in their concern.  If it had been a “Pro Life” pin or “Pro Choice” pin, people would be more divided.   Those people that are supporting today would believe the cause more justifiable.   Since he is being suspended for a pin they agree with – that’s wrong.   Officers are supposed to be neutral in the policies they enforced.

Sometimes though – the results suck.   We need to deal with it and move on.   Otherwise everyone supporting this officer today better also ask for leniency if an officer next week sports a pin that runs contrary to their political beliefs.