The Springfield Police Department in Massachusetts has caused widespread outrage after firing detective Florissa Fuentes for posting a photo of her niece at one of the recent protests against police brutality. 

On May 30, Fuentes posted a photo of her niece at a Black Lives Matter rally in Atlanta, reports WBUR. Her niece was holding a sign that said "Shoot the f**k back,” and she was standing next to a person with another sign saying “Who do we call when the murderer wears the badge?”

“After I posted it, I started getting calls and texts from co-workers. 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 told MassLive.

Fuentes had recently been promoted to the rank of detective in the Special Victims Unit after joining the force in July 2019. She immediately faced backlash from her superiors and other officers over the post and deleted it. But the damage was done, and by June 1, Capt. Trent Duda, head of the Detective Bureau, called her in fury. 

“I said, ‘Cap, I already know why you’re calling. I’m sorry. I meant no malicious intent and I already took it down.' Captain Duda said Commissioner Clapprood was mad and wanted to see me the next day, but hoped if I said exactly what I said to him, I should be fine,” Fuentes told the newspaper.

The next day Fuentes was forced to meet with SPD Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood, Springfield Police Patrolmen’s Association President Joseph Gentile and other department leaders.

“The commissioner said: ‘You have to find a way to fix this. I’m getting pressure from the mayor’s office.‘ 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,” the single mother of three recounted.

Fuentes followed their orders and posted this message to the police union Facebook page: “To my fellow officers, I recently shared a post that a family member had posted of themselves protesting the recent death of George Floyd. I did not share this photo with any malicious intent and I should have thought of how others might perceive it. I apologize to all of those who I have offended. I am not anti-cop. I wear my badge proudly and have committed my life and career to being a police officer.”

The post initially garnered both positive and negative reactions from other officers but was later deleted as more hateful comments began to pour in.  

Fuentes tried to keep her head down after the fracas but was eventually fired on June 19, hours after participating in a police department photo-op that caused its own controversy locally because officers were not wearing masks. 

“I felt used. The commissioner waved at me from her car while I was there. They all knew what was happening,” Fuentes said.

The MassLive story notes that because Fuentes was a new detective, she was not protected by the police union regulations that generally make it difficult to fire officers for any kind of offense. 

But this has caused outrage in the public and within the police department. Sources told MassLive that officers are enraged about the decision but are afraid to speak out because they may face the same fate as Fuentes. An unnamed officer questioned why Fuentes was fired for an Instagram post while other officers are allowed to stay on the force for far more egregious actions. 

“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. There are officers who lied on police reports and have done worse things, yet they remain employed,” the officer told MassLive. noted that officer Anthony Bedinelli has faced 18 separate internal investigations for a number of on-duty actions including violence but is still employed by the force. He has been fired twice, but arbitrators overturned the decision both times.  

Officers with the SPD have a long history of racism, brutality and wanton violence. There have been dozens of news stories over the years detailing racially charged attacks, attempted cover-ups and even attacks by officers on children. 

In May, Clapprood faced criticism for reinstating five indicted officers. The situation was so outrageous that FBI agents and an assistant state attorney general called the city to let officials know that allowing the indicted officers to use weapons meant the police department was breaking the law.

Since the MassLive article was published, elected officials in Massachusetts have come out in support of Fuentes' firing. Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno said in a statement to that he supported Clapprood’s decision.

When asked about her decision to fire Fuentes, Clapprood refused to apologize, defending her actions because of how other officers felt about the Instagram post.

“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. It was the second issue she had, and being on probation, it was my decision to terminate her employment,” Clapprood said.

Fuentes spoke with WBUR about her firing and said she thought it was driven by politics. She told the radio station that she believes Clapprood was pressured by Sarno and other officials to fire her. 

"I didn't take the post as being anti-cop. When I shared the post I didn't think about how others would perceive it. At no point did I share that post with malicious intent. I was just solely supporting my niece and her right to practice her First Amendment," Fuentes said.