Police Captain Demoted After Criticizing Mayor for Issuing Protest Permit

A Massachusetts police officer saw her ranking on the force reduced Thursday over a critical tweet she sent about Boston's mayor.

Salem Police Captain Kate Stephens was demoted two levels to the rank of sergeant, which comes with a 20 percent reduction in salary, following a suspension.

Stephens posted a tweet on the Salem Police Department's (SPD) official Twitter account earlier this month in which she criticized Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for allowing protesters to gather in the midst of a pandemic.

"So you issued a permit for [tens] of thousands of people to protest but I can't go to a restaurant? You are ridiculous. You and Too Tall Deval are killing this State," Stephens wrote on June 1. "Too Tall Deval" is a derogatory reference to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

A spokesperson for the SPD told Newsweek in an email Stephens was reprimanded for improper use of the department's Twitter account and conduct unbecoming a police officer.

Mary Butler, the Salem police chief, said in a statement Wednesday that Stephens was also replaced as executive officer and lost access to all the department's social media accounts.

"Sergeant Stephens' actions were unacceptable, and she has acknowledged that. However, that alone is not sufficient. Therefore, she agreed to the demotion, and last
chance provision. As police officers, we are – rightly – held to a higher standard of conduct. Sergeant Stephens' words undermined confidence in not just her, but in the entire department," Butler said.

Stephens issued an apology along with Butler's announcement, expressing remorse over the tweet that she said was intended for her personal Twitter account, which would still "have been inappropriate."

"I would like to apologize to the community. I absolutely believe and will defend everyone's right to peacefully protest and exercise their First Amendment rights. I am so sorry for this mistake," Stephens said.

"In addition, I would like to apologize to the men and women of the Salem Police Department, and Chief Butler. I would never intentionally bring negative attention to you and the commitment you have made to serve our City. I am mortified that a mistake of the head and not my heart cast a shadow on our Department," Stephens said.

Stephens sent the June 1 tweet as demonstrators were protesting over the death of George Floyd. The police department later sent two tweets on its account – which had not posted new content since 2019 – apologizing to Walsh and Baker.

"The earlier tweet was not authorized and in no way reflects the beliefs of the Salem Police Department. We deeply apologize to Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker," the SPD stated at the time. It added in another tweet: "We will conduct an investigation into who sent this wildly inappropriate tweet and they will be disciplined accordingly."

Butler also posted a message to the Salem community on Facebook shortly after the June 1 tweet was sent, indicating "appropriate action" would be taken against the person who sent the "unauthorized tweet."

"The tweet contained inappropriate content and in no way reflects the values or beliefs of this Department. This should not have happened, but it did. These types of comments are uncalled for at any time, but they are particularly egregious at this time when the public is questioning the police relationship with the community they serve," Butler wrote at the time.

Boston Protest
Protesters march in Boston, Massachusetts on June 22, 2020. A police officer was demoted in Salem, Massachusetts after posting tweets critical of the Boston mayor on June 1. Joseph Prezioso/Getty