COCONUT CREEK (CBSMiami) – A veteran Coconut Creek Police Officer who made a snide and disparaging comment about student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will be suspended from his job without pay for 5 days and undergo sensitivity training, the city's police chief told CBS 4 News.
The fallout from the comment by Officer Brian Valenti will result in all Coconut Creek city employees undergoing training in the proper use of social media for personal use in the near future.
Valenti is a K-9 officer for the Coconut Creek Police Department. He's been with the agency for 23 years but despite a distinguished career he is now known for a nasty comment he made on a social media post about last week's die-in protest at Publix organized by survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting. Student activists like David Hogg made their voices heard regarding campaign contributions by the grocery store giant to politicians who support the NRA. Meanwhile, Officer Valenti posted on Facebook that maybe an old lady would lose control of her car in the Publix lot where some of the students drew chalk outlines to signify the number of dead in the February 14th school shooting…
"He made a horrible error in judgment," said Coconut Creek Police Chief Butch Arenal, who admitted he was aghast at the comment made by the veteran officer over the weekend.
"When we are on or off duty we have a special role in our community and he understands that," Arenal said. "He is extremely remorseful and is very embarrassed by the situation."
Arenal said there were calls to fire Valenti — mostly from people out of state — but judging him by his career with the city and his remorse, Arenal felt a 5-day suspension without pay and remedial training stood as a sufficient punishment. Arenal said no one believes Valenti was advocating violence against the students.
"If we felt in any way, shape or form that this was an actual threat against people, with an intent to carry it out, obviously that would be a completely different set of circumstances," Arenal said.
Arenal also said that what bothers him most is that Coconut Creek and its officers worked closely with Stoneman Douglas students and the city of Parkland since the shooting and done little things like putting MSD Strong stickers on all their police vehicles to show solidarity. He hopes this one comment doesn't undo all of that.
"There's just nothing worse that could happen than to create a perception that out officers have any ill will towards these kids," Arenal said.
Rod Skirvin is the union representative for the Coconut Creek Police. He told CBS 4 News that Valenti is deeply embarrassed about what happened and thought his comment was being posted on a private forum.
""He's distraught over the fact that he's brought embarrassment to the department, the city, police in general," Skirven said.
The union rep said Valenti is receiving threats and plans to apologize to anyone he hurt by his comment.
David Hogg and his mother are expected to meet with the city's police chief and possibly Officer Valenti.
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