Vermont AG calls for firing of trooper over social media posts on Capitol riot
SHAFTSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s Attorney General is calling for the resignation or firing of a Vermont State Trooper whose Facebook posts on Wednesday appeared to support the assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Sergeant Lucas Hall works out of the Shaftsbury Barracks and as of now is on unpaid suspension as the Vermont State Police are conducting an internal investigation. “He’s lost my trust, he’s lost the public’s trust, and he needs to resign,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan.
WCAX obtained a copy of Hall’s Facebook post which says, “God Bless America. Cheers to the great Patriots in Washington DC, the time has come let’s go!” It was followed by, “It might be war, we are beginning to see good law-abiding citizens stand against a corrupted government.”
Donovan says the trooper is not a private citizen and he needs to be held accountable. “We can’t have a police officer who is sworn to uphold and protect the constitution advocate and condone the violent overthrow of the government,” says Donovan.
“These actions, if true, have caused pain and anguish on the part of Vermonters during an already indescribably stressful time in our national history, and for that, we are saddened and sorry,” Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said in a statement Thursday.
First Amendment rights are different when it comes to public government employees according to Jared Carter with the Vermont Law School. He says they are allowed to have personal views, like supporting specific candidates, but that does not extend to condoning violence. “A police officer has a First Amendment right to comment on issues of public concern, they can’t promote terrorism, they can’t promote insurrection and claim First Amendment protection for that.”
Vermont State Police officials say the posts do not reflect their beliefs and values and Donovan agrees. “The Vermont State Police is the pre-eminent law enforcement agency of our state. I fully support them and they have my full confidence,” he said.
All Vermont police officers take an oath that includes, “I do solemnly swear that I will be true and faithful to the State of Vermont, and that I will not, directly or indirectly, do any act or thing injurious to the Constitution or government thereof.”
Elaine Young, a social media marketing professor at Champlain College, says when people are emotional and caught up in the moment, that can lead them to post things they wouldn’t necessarily want everyone to see. “Having that filter has got to be paramount and so many people lose that filter in the moment and so it can cause a lot of damage actually,” she said. Young says to think before you post and put up reminders. “I think a sticky note on your computer that gives you something that reminds you -- are you sure you want to post this. You need something that could be your filter.”
Sgt. Hall did not respond to a request for comments. The Vermont Troopers Association also did not respond.
Commissioner Schirling says the internal investigation into Sergeant Hall’s posts will be completed within a few days.
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