Anti-vax mandate Ontario cop facing list of charges and reactions are mixed
An Ontario cop raised eyebrows back in January, the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) constable posting a video to social media that showed support for the so-called Freedom convoy, an anti-vaccine mandate mob that invaded the nation's capital and occupied its streets through mid-February.
News emerged this week that the officer is now facing several charges under the Police Services Act following an investigation into the video. Durham police have issued six charges that include two counts each of insubordination, discreditable conduct, and breach of confidence.
The January video showed Constable Erin Howard in full uniform voicing support for the movement, filmed in a dimly-lit squad car and posted to her since-deleted Twitter account.
"I just really wanted to give a shoutout to all the truckers, I really think what you're doing is incredible," she said. "You're fighting for our rights and freedoms, and right now it feels like we're a little bit at war, and those rights and freedoms are at stake. So you guys are honestly true heroes."
It's a stance that's earned the cop a mix of admiration and good old-fashioned internet shame, in addition to the charges, underscoring how polarizing the vaccine mandate and free speech topics have become in social media discourse.
Const. Erin Howard is charged with two counts of discreditable conduct, two counts of insubordination and two counts of breach of confidence under the Police Services Act and is due to make her first appearance before a tribunal on May 5. pic.twitter.com/RtN1zng6t1— 𝗠𝗿.𝗕𝘂𝗺face💬 (@misterbumface) March 29, 2022
One commenter said that these are "Exactly the kinds of charges I expected. Wholly inappropriate for her to share her opinion on those events." Yet on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have comments like "God bless Constable Erin Howard," and stunning displays of political ignorance like a hilarious "I smell communism" response.
white lady cop in court pic.twitter.com/efybZ08u1a— 👁 (@milllionss) March 29, 2022
It's really a matter of which Twitter bubble you look at, with coverage of the investigation and charges garnering wildly different responses.
Geeze! You voice support for one little attempt to overthrow the government and suddenly people think you can't be trusted to enforce the law!— David_M_W (@David__M__W) March 30, 2022
Mainstream, centrist, and left-leaning sources' coverage has been met with comments largely supportive of the police response, while right and far-right outlets' coverage has generated comments with concerns about free speech and political overreach.
Government should be readied in, talk about overreacting, public servants should have the same rights to free speech— Jack (@nascarfanjack) March 29, 2022
Arguments claiming that these charges violate the officer's supposed right to free speech have been swiftly refuted in reactions to the news.
Cops are allowed to have thoughts but taking them to social media on duty in a uniform was her folly. Even if she posted them on off time she may have been reviewed for expressing her opinions. Employers have rights too. Cops are held to a higher code of conduct than shop clerks.— Change of Rein (@ReinChange) March 30, 2022
The officer will make her first appearance before a tribunal to face the charges on May 5.
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