Salisbury Police officer terminated over Facebook post

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 13, 2014

A veteran police officer was terminated Friday after making what officials call “inappropriate and inflammatory” comments on his personal Facebook page.

Officer Bill Torrence was terminated after 22 years with the department.

A community activist who was made aware of the comments says he believes they were aimed at the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of Michael Brown and resulting protests, and he believes they were racist in nature.

They city’s police chief, who saw the comments, says they were not racist.

The Post has not been able to obtain a copy of the comments, and Torrence’s Facebook page has been removed.

A press release issued by the city did not identify the officer. But the Salisbury Post requested Torrence’s personnel records and termination letter. The letter says he was terminated for violating the police department and the city’s policy on “personal webpages/sites” as well as “standards of conduct.”

A city news release said: “On December 12, 2014, the Salisbury Police Department terminated one of its officers for making an inappropriate comment, via their personal Facebook site. The comment, which was determined to be a violation of department and city policies, was brought to the attention of department administration and removed the same day.

“The inappropriate and inflammatory posting was made concerning current events taking place in our nation. The officer’s comment was highly contrary to the legal and appropriate manner in which officers are trained to handle these types of situations. Furthermore, his comments are not a representation of how the Salisbury Police Department feels that situations like those occurring should be handled.

“The Salisbury Police Department works hard, on a daily basis, to grow and strengthen relationships with the community it serves. The Facebook posting by this officer undermines those efforts. The Salisbury Police Department and the City of Salisbury will not tolerate activity, such as this, which only hinders our efforts to serve in partnership with our community.

The department will be conducting in-house refresher training concerning our policy pertaining to the use of social media.”

Community leader Ken Hardin says the post was brought to his attention two weeks ago and he felt it was racist in nature.

Hardin said the remarks on the Facebook page were “racially insensitive and incendiary.”

One of the remarks written was, “shoot them in the head and chest next time” as well as references to using the word N-word, Hardin wrote in an email to the Post.

Police Chief Rory Collins denied the post had any racial comments. When asked if he could provide a copy of the post, Collins said he could not. He declined further comment.

Hardin said he contacted Collins about the post and was informed that the chief was aware of it and was handling the matter.

Hardin said he gave the police department time to look into the matter, but felt two weeks was too long to come to a determination.

“I felt there was a lot of stalling,” he said.

He added initially there was talk of suspending Torrence and have him undergo diversity training. But he and other community leaders pushed for termination.

He said anything short of termination would further erode the relationship between the Salisbury Police Department and the black community. Hardin said he believes Salisbury is one incident away from the civil unrest that’s happened in Ferguson from happening here.

He said he hopes this doesn’t push the community further away.

Hardin said he continues to feel as though there is no trust between the police and the community, particularly the black community. He admits,” the trust is just not there.’

Torrence will not be paid his $43,955.99 a year salary after Friday, according to information provided by the city.

The records also show Torrence was suspended in May 2012 for violating a police officer’s obligation to attend court. He was also suspended in August 1994 after for violating the department rule of conduct for obedience to laws and regulations.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.