FULTON — Mayor Deana Michaels said Monday she has “zero tolerance for actions and behaviors that shake the public confidence” and will move to fire a city police officer who posted a racist meme on social media.
In the wake of nationwide protests over police violence and the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd last Monday, Fulton City Police Officer Hunter Beckwith posted the image in question to her Instagram account, according to multiple independently corroborated records of online communication reviewed by The Palladium-Times. The meme depicted several emoji, and crudely questioned the sincerity of black protestors. Fulton city officials have not yet released Beckwith’s name, or returned multiple requests for comment from The Palladium-Times. Attempts to reach leadership representatives of the Fulton Police Benevolent Association, the union representing rank-and-file officers, were not immediately successful Monday afternoon.
Michaels did not specifically name Beckwith in a Monday statement, but referred to taking “immediate action” with Fulton Police Chief Craig Westbrook Friday night when notified of the allegations against one of Fulton’s law enforcement officers. The first-term mayor, elected with strong voter support in 2019, called the situation “unfortunate on many levels.”
“The residents of the city of Fulton need to have the utmost confidence and trust in their police force and the city of Fulton employees,” Michaels said in a statement emailed to media members. “I have zero tolerance for actions and behaviors that shake the public confidence or question the trust of those who are tasked with serving our community and protecting our community.”
According to Michaels’ statement, she and Westbrook initiated an investigation over the weekend to “determine the circumstances and our next steps.” With that investigation complete and with the acknowledgement of the city Police and Fire Commission, Fulton has now “moved forward with the process of the termination of this officer.”
New York police departments typically have robust employment protection for members as a result of collectively bargained union contracts. The timeline of the city’s “process of termination” is not immediately clear.
Craig Westbrook took over as Fulton’s top cop in January and replaced retiring longtime chief Orlo Green III. Westbrook, a Central Square native, Volney resident and SUNY Oswego grad, previously served 20 years on the force as an investigator, K-9 handler and deputy chief.
Beckwith’s posts “do not represent the values” of his department, Westbrook said, and “diminish the trust between the police and the public.” He also thanked the public for raising the red flag on Beckwith’s posts.
“We appreciate the community being proactive in bringing this matter to our attention,” said Westbrook. “We take these matters seriously and will continue to serve the community with the highest level of professionalism.”