According to Santiago, “Those standards have consistently been applied in circumstances where the officer’s private behavior undermines the police department’s position in the community or creates the impression that its members may not be able to fairly enforce the law.”
However, Gattison doesn’t see a problem with the videos. “I’m not doing nothing to nobody,” he said. “I could see if I was targeting somebody, but it’s just lyrical exercise.” He also noted that Captain Dwayne Mitchell, Irvington’s highest-ranking police officer, invited him to perform at the department’s annual Christmas Party in December.
He also has some backup. “If they had taken part in a Shakespearean play and the character talked about murdering people, would there be any outrage, ” Wayne Fisher, the former deputy director of the state’s division of criminal justice, said. “In this instance, their First Amendment rights trump anything else.”
But others still stand firm that Gattison’s videos created a compromised environment for the department.
“Your free speech off-duty is not unlimited,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice. “Things that can impede the agency’s work, cause disgrace to the agency or subject the agency to ridicule can be legitimate issues for internal action.”
Santiago has until the end of the month to file charges against the officers involved.