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A Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue captain demoted last May to firefighter after posting a controversial comment to his personal Facebook page about the Trayvon Martin case testified yesterday at his arbitration hearing. According to news reports, Brian Beckmann, who wrote that urban youth were products of “(expletive), ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents” and made disparaging remarks about a prosecutor, mostly stood his ground on his comments and his right to make them.
At the arbitration hearing, Beckmann, speaking for the first time publicly, said the use of a single profanity in the posting was offensive, but none of the rest was in “the context” that it was offered.
In a statement given early on the Miami Herald, Beckmann said he was a “private citizen” with the “same right to freely express an opinion on any subject” as any other citizen.
On his Facebook page, however, Beckmann held himself out as more than a private citizen.
“I did identify myself somewhere in there, I believe I did identify myself as a captain of Station 65,” Beckmann conceded under grilling by an assistant county attorney.
Beckmann is asking the arbitrator to reinstate him because he believes his right to due process was violated. He says the determination of his punishment was based on politics and not objective judgment by his supervisors.
“This was a very predominant issue in the media. You couldn’t turn on a TV or sit at a table at a fire station without people talking about it in some context,” said Beckmann. “It was, on top of that, extremely frustrating for me to hear what I heard in that press conference. This was something that invoked a response in me that, I was upset, I was very upset at Angela Corey for her actions. I found it very irresponsible.”
In January, the county made its case to an arbitrator. The county argued Beckmann violated its social media policy by speaking on behalf of his fellow coworkers in his private post.