The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office on Thursday fired a deputy recently linked to the far-right group called the Proud Boys, saying that the organization's values are contradictory to those of the law enforcement agency.
The deputy, Brian Green, also violated an internal policy prohibiting employees from engaging in social media activity "that negatively affects the public perception" of the agency, the Sheriff's Office said.
A furor erupted on social media earlier this month when people noticed that Green described himself as a member of the Proud Boys and was an administrator of the Facebook page for the group's local chapter.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks right-wing organizations, characterizes the Proud Boys' views as anti-woman and anti-Muslim. Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes established the group during Donald Trump's victorious 2016 presidential campaign.
The group dismisses the SPLC's characterization of it as false. Denying ties to the so-called "alt-right," Proud Boys leaders say they consider themselves a fraternity standing in opposition to "white guilt" and political correctness.
In one video online, Green shares some of his beliefs, saying, "I'm a proud Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world."
Green was working as a patrol deputy at the Sheriff's Office when someone contacted the agency on Facebook and complained about his ties to the Proud Boys on Aug. 8.
Sheriff Gerald Turlich said then he would ask the feds to help his office investigate whether the Proud Boys are "a hate or supremacy group," and Green was placed on indefinite paid leave.
Last week, the social media platform Twitter suspended the accounts of both McInnes and the Proud Boys, saying they had violated the company's anti-extremism standards.
Turlich stopped short of calling the Proud Boys a hate group in announcing Green's termination on Thursday. But the sheriff said Green's decision to promote his ties to the Proud Boys on at least one social media page showing him in his agency uniform had "inevitably affected the public trust bestowed upon him" and the Sheriff's Office.
"Green's decision to utilize the ... uniform to promote the views of the Proud Boys, whose values are contradictory to the values and the vision of the (Sheriff's Office), will not be tolerated," Turlich said in a statement. He added that the office "does not support the organization or its ideals, and law enforcement in general has an obligation to treat all people equally, fairly and impartially."
Turlich did note that Green, a five-year veteran, had not previously been disciplined or been the target of any public complaints.
But, he said, aside from avoiding social media activity that negatively affects the agency's image, Sheriff's Office employees are also expected to refrain from speech "that would reasonably be considered reckless or irresponsible."
Activists and some segments of the news media have sought to expose members of organizations that are accused of being hate groups, particularly those who work for government agencies.
Recent reporting by ProPublica and Frontline identified a U.S. Marine and an employee of the defense contractor Northrop Grumman as having participated in last year's rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which turned deadly.
Also, last month, the Clark County, Washington, Sheriff's Office fired Erin Willey as a deputy after she was photographed wearing a hooded Proud Boys sweatshirt.
A few days after that, the Proud Boys were again the subject of unflattering news stories when members of the group, along with those of the right-wing Patriot Prayer organization, clashed with left-wing "antifa" protesters in the streets of Portland, Oregon.
Legally, government employees do not relinquish their rights to free speech, but they are not necessarily protected if they express views that are seen as undermining their employers' operations or trustworthiness, according to Lexipol, which offers consulting services to public safety agencies.
In Louisiana, sheriff's deputies serve on an at-will basis, meaning the sheriff can fire them at any time.
As Green's story gained attention, a message on a Facebook page dubbed "Proud Boys Louisiana" accused the SPLC of wrongful accusations and threatened to sue "anyone caught going after someone's employment or business."
Attempts to contact Green weren't immediately successful Thursday.
A Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy recently linked to the far-right group called the Proud Boys has been told not to come to work fo…
A growing furor over the affiliation of a Plaquemines Parish sheriff's deputy with a far-right group called the Proud Boys led Sheriff Gerald …