Fired North Carolina Cop Claims Racial Comments Are Protected Under First Amendment

A North Carolina police officer who was fired after making racially charged comments said his speech is protected by the First Amendment after appealing for reinstatement.

James B. Gilmore, one of three Wilmington Police Department (WPD) officers who were fired over comments made about Black people in a recorded conversation, sent a letter to the Wilmington Civil Service Board on July 2, in which he argued his comments were protected by the Constitution.

"I did not make any comments based upon racist ideology and my comments were directed towards the Black Lives Matter movement, which has cost officers their lives, threatened officers with death, threatened to kill officer's family members, to include their children," Gilmore wrote in the letter.

"[The BLM] movement involves members of all races and is not solely comprised of Black members of society. The matters for which I commented were matters of public concern," Gilmore said.

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"The conversation, while on duty, was not made pursuant to my official duties, and my conversation was not directed towards any other employee of the WPD. Therefore, I believe my speech is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and my termination is without cause," Gilmore said.

According to documents released after an internal investigation into the recorded conversation involving Gilmore, Kevin Piner, and former police Cpl. Jessie Moore, Gilmore said he saw a video on social media "about white people bowing down on their knees and 'worshipping Blacks.'"

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"How many times have I told you it's almost like they think they're their own god?" Gilmore said to Piner.

The documents also showed that when Gilmore was interviewed by police, he said that he was speaking solely on videos he watched on social media and took issue with the bowing because the Bible states "thou shall not bow to any idol."

"He stated that he would have a problem if the video had Black people bowing down to kiss the feet of white people also...Gilmore stated that he always treats everyone fairly regardless of their race," according to WPD documents.

The investigation looked into whether Gilmore violated the department's rules and policies with regard to standard of conduct, criticism, and the use of inappropriate jokes and slurs, which in Gilmore's case were all found to be either not sustained or unfounded.

Donny Williams, the chief of the Wilmington police, wrote in Gilmore's termination letter that he "rejected" the investigation's findings regarding that the standard of conduct violation was "not sustained," but concurred with the other findings.

"Your comments regarding people of color and the performance of your duties most certainly are a violation of our Department's Standard of Conduct policy. Your tone and references to people of color displays conduct other than that expected by members of this department," Williams wrote.

Newsweek reached out to the WPD for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Police Car
A fired Wilmington, North Carolina wants to be reinstated after being fired over a recorded conversation where racially charged language was used against Black people. Robert Alexander/Getty
Fired North Carolina Cop Claims Racial Comments Are Protected Under First Amendment | U.S.