Gretna, LA – Two Gretna police officers were fired on Monday, after one of them posted a controversial online comment about U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).
“This vile idiot needs a round…….and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,” Gretna Police Officer Charlie Rispoli wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday, along with a satirical article about the congresswoman.
“It must be hard living with the IQ of a Chiclet,” the 14-year veteran-of-the-force added.
Ocasio-Cortez formerly worked as a New York bartender.
One of his fellow officers, Gretna Police Officer Angelo Varisco, “liked” the post, The Times-Picauyne reported.
Officer Rispoli deleted the controversial comment on Friday and had deactivated his Facebook account entirely by Saturday, but not before Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson was made aware of the post.
Chief Lawson initially said that the post was “disturbing,” but noted that he did not believe the officer was actually making a threat against Ocasio-Cortez, The Times-Picayune reported.
"Whether you agree or disagree with the message of these elected officials and how frustrated you may or may not get, this certainly is not the type of thing that a public servant should be posting," he said.
“I will tell you this: This will not go unchecked," the chief added. "I’m not going to take this lightly and this will be dealt with on our end. It’s not something we want someone that’s affiliated with our department to make these types of statements. That’s not going to happen."
Ocasio-Cortez weighed in on the situation on Monday afternoon.
“This is Trump’s goal when he uses targeted language & threatens elected officials who don’t agree w/ his political agenda. It’s authoritarian behavior,” she tweeted. “The President is sowing violence. He’s creating an environment where people can get hurt & he claims plausible deniability.”
Officer Rispoli was placed on administrative leave on Monday, The Times-Picayune reported.
Just hours later, Chief Lawson announced that Officer Rispoli and Officer Varisco had both been fired.
Officer Varisco had been with the Gretna Police Department (GPD) for less than three years.
Chief Lawson said that the ongoing investigation into the officers began as “a ripple in a pond that became a tidal wave.”
Investigators have also contacted Facebook to see if any other officers “liked” the since-deleted comment, according to the chief.
"These officers have certainly acted in a manner which was unprofessional, alluding to a violent act to be conducted against a sitting U.S. [congresswoman], a member of our government," Chief Lawson declared. "We are not going to tolerate that.”
He said that such comments by law enforcement officers are unacceptable, and called the situation “an embarrassment” for his entire department.
Chief Lawson said that his department recently underwent social media and diversity training, and that the officers all received news reports about officers who were being investigated for comments they made online.
"We do everything that we can through this department to train our officers to try to make them understand that when they do something like this, the impact is greater than the average citizen," he told The Times-Picayune.
“With all of those efforts, something like this still happens,” the chief continued. “It’s very disturbing. It shows a lack of the officer paying attention to what’s going on in the world around him.”
Chief Lawson reiterated that he does not believe Officer Rispoli was conveying a legitimate threat when he made the post, and said the veteran officer was remorseful, The Times-Picayune reported.
Officer Rispoli posted the comment “in the heat of the moment,” after he read the fake story about Ocasio-Cortez and apparently didn’t realize that the article was clearly marked as satire, the chief said.
"You see in social media where people don’t read what they’re reading and they don’t comprehend what they're reading," he continued. "They take a caption and react, read a headline and react to it. It’s a shame, but it’s the world we’re living in now. It’s sad but it’s something we just can’t tolerate.”
"It’s a tough lesson, but hopefully it’s a lesson learned, not only by our department, but other law enforcement agencies as well,” Chief Lawson added.
Officer Rispoli and Officer Varisco both worked security detail at the Jefferson Parish Governmental Building, and had never been assigned to the streets.
They had each arrested two people during their careers, and all of those arrests occurred inside the courtroom, Chief Lawson said.