Miami firefighter’s Trayvon Martin rant on Facebook leads to scrutiny from bosses

The Miami HeraldApril 16, 2012 

A Miami-Dade firefighter’s rant about the Trayvon Martin case — posted on his personal Facebook page — is drawing scrutiny from his bosses.

Capt. Brian Beckmann’s post, published for the public Friday by the website theGrio.com, lambasts the prosecutor in the George Zimmerman case and suggests “urban youth” are the products of “failed, sh*tbag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents.”

Someone with access to Beckmann’s Facebook page sent a screen shot of his posting to the website which is geared toward African-American issues.

The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue told Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of theGrio and a Miami Herald contributing columnist, it was investigating the captain’s online posting.

Beckmann, told the website in a Facebook message: “I am a private citizen and have the same right to freely express an opinion on any subject that anyone else does. I choose not to embellish or alter the facts as your employer chose to do.”

Reached by a reporter Sunday, Beckmann said: “It’s under investigation. I can’t talk to you.”

The investigation and racially-charged entry on the private Facebook page is an example of how employers both private and public struggle to balance free speech and conduct that may reflect poorly on an employee.

Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, called this kind of incident “one of the great challenges of the digital age.”

“Organizations often want all the advantages of social media to promote themselves and their missions, but struggle to figure out the boundaries for their employees. The law sometimes is not at all clear about where the border between free speech and organizational rule-making can be drawn.”

He added: “At the individual level, people are in a brand new world where they have to think about – and manage – a variety of ‘publics.’ In social media it is pretty easy for people to believe that some social media postings are more or less private, when it fact it just takes a few clicks for them to become very public acts with a big audience. It’s unprecedented. It’s unnerving. And it requires a new set of social skills to manage properly.”

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 killing of Trayvon, an unarmed Miami Gardens teen who was in Sanford visiting his father’s girlfriend.

A neighborhood watch volunteer with a penchant for calling police to relate suspicious happenings, Zimmerman called 911 that night to report Trayvon, who had gone to a convenience store to buy candy. A scuffle ensured and the Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon.

Zimmerman claimed self-defense and Sanford police pointed to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in not arresting the man. The shooting has sparked dozens of racially charged rallies across the nation and sparked worldwide attention on Florida’s self-defense law.

Beckmann, a Miami-Dade employee since 1997, posted the rant on Wednesday, the night special prosecutor Angela Corey announced Zimmerman had been charged.

“Listening to Prosecutor Corey blow herself and her staff for five minutes before pre-passing judgment on George Zimmerman,” the post read.

“The state seeks reelection again, truth aside. I and my coworkers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, sh*tbag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents, but like Mrs. Corey, we speak only the truth.

“They're just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn't have anything to do with why people wonder if they're about to get jacked by a thug,” the posting reads.

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