A police officer in New York City complained to his supervisors and commanders that quotas for arrests and stop and frisks resulted in unjustified intrusions and other unnecessary stops and arrests.  Officer Craig Matthews claimed that he was retaliated against for speaking out in the usual forms: undesirable assignments, poor performance reviews, and denials of overtime and leave.  

Matthews claimed that this retaliation violated his free speech rights under the First Amendment that apply to police officers and other public employees.  A district court ruled that the complaints were not protected speech, because Matthews was expected to raise these complaints as part of regular duties and responsibilities. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and ruled that Matthews' complaints were protected speech against which his free speech rights under the First Amendment protected him against retaliation.

Source: New York Times

This is a good ruling for Matthews and other police officers.  The United States Supreme Court reduced the First Amendment protections for police officers and other public employees a few years ago in case known as Garcetti v Ceballos.  The rule in Garcetti was that reports or complaints that police officers or other public employees were required to make as part of their duties and as may be required by department general orders or procedure manuals were not protected speech under the First Amendment. 

Lexington, Kentucky employment lawyer Robert Abell represents public employees and other whistleblowers in First Amendment cases; contact him at 859-254-7076.

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