Sergeant sues Phoenix PD, claims 1st Amendment rights were violated by social media policy

The Phoenix Police Department being sued by one of its own police sergeants.

The lawsuit stems from a story FOX 10 brought you in June, when officers were being investigated for their conduct on social media. The sergeant who filed the lawsuit said his First Amendment rights were violated because of the department's policy and is looking to get it changed in federal court.

According to Sergeant Juan Hernandez's attorney, Steve Serbalik, four posts that Sgt. Hernandez made were flagged by the Phoenix Police Department for being in violation of its Social Media Policy. Many of the posts had an anti-Muslim bent to them.

Sgt. Hernandez was one of 75 currently employed Phoenix Police officers identified by the Plain View Project, which looked into public social media posts they deemed concerning from police officers around the country. According to Serbalik, there were 11 posts that were made by Serbalik that were entered into the Plain View Project database.

Hernandez was brought before the department's Professional Standard's Bureau for potential discipline. Serbalik is now challenging the policy, as well as potential discipline, in Federal court.

"Well Sgt. Hernandez, in this case, actually re-posted information he saw online about topics that were being widely covered in the news, and he was trying to spark conversations with his friends and family," said Serbalik. "Police officers are just like the rest of us. They have First Amendment rights to be able to participate in that public conversation."

Serbalik says Hernandez hasn't been disciplined yet, but they believe it's on the way. Potential actions include suspension, demotion, and termination.

"All I can tell you is that Sgt. Hernandez has behaved appropriately at all times while he's on duty and wearing a uniform," said Serbalik. "That's something that's really important to understand here."

The Phoenix Police Department didn't comment on the case specifically, but outlined their review policy. The board consists of an Assistant Police Chief, two peer officers, two commanders, and two civilians.

Plain View Project database on police officer Facebook posts
[Discretion Advised]