SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — A police detective in Springfield has been fired for a posting a photo to social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As reported by The Republican, former officer Florissa Fuentes had graduated as class president from the Western Massachusetts County Correctional Officer’s Training Academy in 2018.
Fuentes, a single mother of three who hails from a military family in Boston's North End, was among 18 new recruits for the Springfield Police Department. In under a year, she was a detective in the Special Victims Unit.
Shortly after her move to SVU, The Republican said Fuentes was fired over an image she posted to her private Instagram account while off-duty.
The photo showed Fuentes' niece and a friend protesting in Atlanta. They were holding signs that said "Shoot The F--- Back," and "Who do we call when the murderer wears the badge?"
The protest in Atlanta attended by Fuentes' niece was part of a wave of demonstrations across the country, calling for police reform and racial equality in the wake of the police killing to George Floyd.
Fuentes told The Republican after posting the photo, she realized how it may have inflamed some of her colleagues at the police department.
"After I posted it, I started getting calls and texts from co-workers,” Fuentes said. “I was initially confused, but then I realized they thought I was being anti-cop. I wasn’t. I was just supporting my niece’s activism. I had no malicious intent, and I wouldn’t put a target on my own back. I’m out there on the streets every day like everyone else.”
Fuentes said she removed the image after she realized the problems it had caused. On June 1st, she got a call from Captain Trent Duda, head of the Detective Bureau, to discuss the Instagram post.
The Republican says Capt. Duda wrote Fuentes up, citing a “possible” social media violation.
Fuentes was called to meet the next day with Commissioner Clapprood and several other higher-ups, including longtime Springfield Police Patrolmen’s Association president, Officer Joseph Gentile.
“The commissioner said: ‘You have to find a way to fix this. I’m getting pressure from the mayor’s office,‘” Fuentes told The Republican. “I said, ‘Ok, I’m sorry. How do I fix it?’ Officer Gentile suggested I post an apology on the police union Facebook page. So I went home later and I did.”
According to The Republican, Gentile declined to comment for the story, and Clapprood denied telling Fuentes to “fix it.”
“I never told her to just fix it. That’s the issue with social media; once you post something it’s out there and you can’t retract it. That post was hurtful to many of her co-workers,” Clapprood said.
After Fuentes posted an apology, which also drew some backlash from fellow officers, The Republican said Deputy Chief Rupert Daniel sent an email urging officers to participate in a group photo at Riverfront Park to show that “we are unified, diverse and we still get along.”
Despite ongoing tensions, Fuentes showed up for the photo at 8 a.m. Two hours later, she was called by Gentile and told she must resign or be fired, so she chose to be fired.
“It wasn’t my shift, but I knew I pissed a lot of people off, so I felt like I owed it to the commissioner and everyone," Fuentes told The Republican. "I felt used. The commissioner waved at me from her car while I was there. They all knew what was happening."
One of Fuentes' fellow officers, who remained anonymous for fear of retribution, told The Republican he believes "favoritism is rampant at the department, and Clapprood had the option of extending Fuentes’ probationary period as opposed to firing her."
“There’s a lot of officers who are afraid to speak up about this issue and don’t want to be targeted as well. … Although we agree punishment should have happened … she owned up to it immediately, and said sorry and she was sincere,” the officer said. “There are officers who lied on police reports and have done worse things, yet they remain employed.”
(Photo: Getty Images)