Even The Police Have First Amendment Rights.

Lieutenant William Kelly is a former police officer for the Norfolk Police Department who served for 19 years.

The father of three and with a wife facing health issues was terminated from his job for donating $25 to the Kyle Wittenhouse defense fund.

Kelly, 42, said he donated to a GiveSendGo account to benefit Rittenhouse, now 18, at the end of summer 2020. He registered an account using his official police department email, but said his donation was anonymous.

A message included with the donation stated: “God Bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong. Every rank-and-file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership.”

Kelly did not place the donation during work hours, he said. He didn’t hear anything about the contribution for months, until the morning of Friday, April 16.

The donation came to light when hackers got into the database of the donation site GiveSendGo.

The breach, shared with journalists by transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets, revealed the details of some donors who had previously attempted to conceal their identities using GiveSendGo’s anonymity feature, but whose identifying details the website preserved.

Kelly certainly made a mistake in using an email associated with his City account, but is that grounds for dismissal?

The City of Norfolk thought so:

Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone filed a recommendation to relieve Kelly of his duty. City Manager Chip Filer accepted it.

“I have reviewed the results of the internal investigation involving Lt. William Kelly,” explained Filer in an April statement. “Chief Larry Boone and I have concluded Lt. Kelly’s actions are in violation of City and departmental policies. His egregious comments erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve. The City of Norfolk has a standard of behavior for all employees, and we will hold staff accountable.”

“A police department cannot do its job when the public loses trust with those whose duty is to serve and protect them,” said Boone following the decision to remove Kelly from his position. “We do not want perceptions of any individual officer to undermine the relations between the Norfolk Police Department and the community.”

It seems odd to us that expressing an opinion that has now been substantiated by 12 men and women in a court trial is “egregious.” We don’t see how a cop donating to the defense fund of an innocent person “undermine[s] the relations between the Norfolk Police Department and the community.”

Not only did Kelly get the verdict and the law in regards to Rittenhouse right, he also got the statement “political class of law enforcement leadership” right.

The proof of that is simple. Here is Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone at rallies and protests for “Black Lives Matter.”

Notice that Boone is not hiding his identity. He is out with the protestors in full police uniform. Instead of taking a neutral position on the contentious BLM protests, Boone waded into the middle of the controversy to make what is clearly a political statement.

Boone still has a job even though he supported a group that was linked to riots in his own city. and included blocking a major highway.

After stopping traffic, protesters gathered on Mallory Street and chanted “No peace, no sleep” followed by a moment of silence remembering those who died at the hands of police, from suicide or from gun violence.

After shutting down the interstate, protesters went to Peninsula Town Center to continue the protest.

By 11:20 p.m., Hampton Police were playing a message on a loudspeaker around the intersection of Power Plant Way and Mercury Boulevard saying the gathering had been determined to be unlawful.

Police asked the group to disperse. The road was also blocked to traffic. Some officers could be seen with shields and helmets.

After all, nothing says “support of the community” by the police chief appearing with those breaking the law.

Still, if nothing else, Kelly had the right to say what he did and the right to donate the money he did.

We know that because the US Supreme Court has said in the case of Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission that giving money to causes is a form of speech.

While using a City email address may be against policy, Kelly made his donation anonymously. It was his clear intent to not have his name disclosed. Hacking things such as databases of groups and corporations is definitely illegal, and yet in this case, the City of Norfolk used the illegally obtained database to fire a cop of 19 years.

Frankly, if President Joe Biden can label Kyle Rittenhouse as a “white supremacist” and then pray people forget his false characterization, Kelly has the right to use his expertise and determine how he wished to support Rittenhouse.

While Kelly had been warned of potential consequences once the database was breeched, he never saw himself being fired. He anticipated repercussions, but didn’t expect them to reach the level of termination – or to come as swiftly as they did.

Being in internal affairs for so long as a sergeant and then again coming back as lieutenant, I knew that Internal Affairs investigations take months and months and months, sometimes over a year,” he said. “I know that it takes months and months to go through the administrative process of scrutiny by different departments.”

He further described it as a “long, drawn-out process.” His attorney, Andrew Protogyrou, a former city council member who has represented other officers in union-related legal matters, added that typical consequences would have been “at worst, a letter of reprimand.”

“So [I] certainly was not expecting to be fired,” Kelly continued. “Certainly, was not expecting to be fired within two working days of discovering the donation.”

The police department did not respond to Fox News’ request seeking comment and additional information regarding the circumstance surrounding Kelly’s dismissal. A spokesperson for the city manager’s office declined to comment.

Kelly, through his attorneys, Protogyrou and Raymond L. Hogge, Jr., filed a grievance with the city on May 7, challenging his termination and seeking reinstatement, back pay, restoration of leave, benefits, seniority and rank as well as the expungement of dismissal and public announcement, the document states.

The act of firing Kelly is clearly in retaliation for his opinions and for political speech with which the City disagreed.

Now that Rittenhouse has been acquitted, Kelly is suing the City of Norfolk to get his job back. In a bit of irony, the legal fees are being covered by crowdsourcing at GiveSendGo.

A fund set up for a fired police officer who supported Kyle Rittenhouse has received well over its goal of $100,000.

The Give Send Go donation page for Lieutenant William Kelly was set up on November 20 by political commentator Candace Owens and has so far raised over $230,000 at time of writing.

Kelly was terminated from his job by the Norfolk Police Department in April 2020.

This occurred after a data breach showed he anonymously donated $25 to Rittenhouse’s defense fund.

Candace Owens took to Twitter to voice her frustration last week about Bill Kelly being fired last week and announced the donation page.

On November 20 she wrote: “Today I started a fundraising for Lt. Bill Kelly—17-year police veteran who was fired in April after the despicable @guardian revealed that he anonymously donated to Kyle Rittenhouse’s legal defense. Please share and support!”

Lawyers for Kelly are hoping for a hearing on the matter in January. That may be stretched out a bit in that if Kelly is reinstated, that would mean pay and benefits back to April of 2021. When he was terminated, he only needed 10 more months of service to reach his 20 year mark which would allow him to then retire with a full pension and benefits. In other words, 10 months of service would be February of 2022. A judge or arbitrator could easily take that long to make a decision from a January hearing.

Still, the overriding principle here is that the City of Norfolk denied Kelly his First Amendment rights.

Unlike the Chief of Police, he made his comments anonymously and without wearing a badge or uniform. There is nothing that connected him to Norfolk other than the illegally obtained email address he used for the GiveSendGo account.

Kelly seems to be a decent guy – a decent cop – who disagreed with the prosecution of Kyle Rittenhouse. The City of Norfolk fired him for that opinion.

That’s wrong and unConstitutional.

2 Responses to “Even The Police Have First Amendment Rights.”

  1. Percy Veer says:

    Using your work email for personal business is usually not the best idea however, I hope officer Kelly gets his job back and much more. The hypocrisy of firing him in the first place for something this minor, while the chief runs around in full dress uniform carrying a BLM poster in public is incredible. How could any rational adult think the city of Norfolk acted fairly.

    I love the irony of using a GiveSendGo account to fund his legal costs.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Percy Veer,

      Thanks for the comment.

      We agree that it was not the best thing to do in using an official email, but when we went looking for the Norfolk Police Policies on email use, there is nothing explicitly against it. There is a section on the use of social media and how police should not make posts that would bring the department itself into the controversy, but that didn’t happen here.

      The donation was made anonymously (not using his own name) and the hypocrisy of the Chief’s actions is blatant.

      Kelly wasn’t using his name or position or job, so it should have been fine – at best a letter of reprimand or a “don’t do that again,” talk.

      Firing should not have been an option.

      People are people – not some robots that because they work for the City give up their rights to speak out and donate to causes outside of their work.

      One has to wonder if Kelly had donated to something like a “pro-life group,” would he have been fired?

      We don’t think so.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.