After several members of the St. Louis Rams NFL team made a “hands up” gesture of solidarity with Ferguson protesters before the team’s home game yesterday, a group called the St. Louis Police Officers Association issued a statement criticizing the players. The group’s statement quoted its business manager, Jeff Roorda:
The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. Roorda said he planned to speak to the NFL and the Rams to voice his organization’s displeasure tomorrow. He also plans to reach out to other police organizations in St. Louis and around the country to enlist their input on what the appropriate response from law enforcement should be. Roorda warned, “I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well I’ve got news for people who think that way, cops have first amendment [sic] rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s [sic] products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association is a union that represents city officers in collective bargaining and lobbies legislators; it appears to have been around for at least 46 years. Roorda himself has been in the news before: In 2001 he was fired from his police job in Arnold, a Missouri city about 20 miles from St. Louis, after making what an investigation determined to be a false accusation of abusive behavior against his police chief during a dispute over paid leave. The department’s justification for his termination made reference to a previous incident in which Roorda had lied on a police report. From a Missouri Court of Appeals ruling upholding his firing:
… the record reveals that in July 1997, Roorda attempted to try to “cover” for another police officer by filing a report that contained false statements as to what happened during a suspect’s apprehension and arrest. As a result of this false report, all charges against the defendant involved were dropped, and Roorda received a written reprimand from B.J. Nelson (the City’s Chief of Police at the time) for violating the City Police Department’s General Order 74.4 (“False Reporting”).
During his paid-leave dispute, Roorda also recorded conversations with the police chief and at least two other department employees without their knowledge, a violation of his department’s code of conduct. (The chief himself was later terminated after a scandal resulting from other accusations Roorda made against him; the chief then sued the city and received $175,000 in a settlement.)