Police union president made ‘racially insensitive’ remarks on social media, complaint says

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The president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police is under investigation after a complaint alleging he made racially insensitive comments on social media, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Dispatch.

The complaint filed in late July with the city’s Department of Public Safety relates to posts Jeff Simpson made on his X profile, formerly known as Twitter. The Department of Public Safety confirmed the investigation is ongoing.

The issue revolves around Simpson’s response to posts about the Jason Aldean song, “Try That in a Small Town.” The song and music video drew wide criticism for lyrics and images that invoke racism, with the music video being shot in front of a courthouse where a lynching took place.

On July 18, Ken Kuebler, a retired Columbus police deputy chief, posted about the song on his X profile.

Simpson replied, saying, “I hope this song goes to #1. The tolerant left is off the hook. People need to stand up and not be moved. Keep fighting for this country.”

According to the complaint, a reply was made to Simpson’s post, noting that CMT had stopped playing the video because the station considered the video to be “pro-lynching.”

Simpson commented in response, “back in the day that was the penalty you got for doing really bad things. Today you get nothing.”

The back-and-forth on the social media platform then drew a response from Tim Myers, a current deputy chief with the Division of Police.

“Jeff, if you think lynching is ‘the penalty you got for really bad things’ you really need to educate yourself,” Myers wrote. “This is unacceptable.”

Simpson replied, calling Myers “idiotic” and saying it was “scary” that someone in Myers’ position would “make this judgmental stretch.”

“Lord help our troops who are under you,” Simpson continued. It is unclear if Simpson was referring to the officers under Myers’ command or Myers’ service in the U.S. Army.

In another response to his comments, Simpson agreed with a commenter who said other genres of music are allowed to talk about drug use, violence and abusing women with little of the pushback Aldean saw.

“The left wants to push their agenda, silence free speech and shove their agenda down other’s throats. It is absolutely Twilight Zone crap,” Simpson said.

After the exchange, a Black officer filed an equal employment opportunity, EEO, complaint with the city.

“These statements are not only concerning but make me feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe to work for the same Division of Police as him,” the officer wrote. “Simpson has already treated me unfairly and has denied me the same access my other co-workers have been granted. This all makes sense now as to why I have been treated this way.”

Simpson has been the president of the FOP Capital City Lodge No. 9 since April 2021 and is set to serve as president through December 2024. He has also been both the grievance chairman for Columbus police and assistant grievance chair, elected FOP executive board trustee and elected as vice president, executive vice president and president of the union.

“There is a process with any complaint,” Simpson said Tuesday. “I respect such process, and I have no further comment at this time.”

“I’ve been in office and have worked for the past five consecutive FOP presidents before me. I have been afforded what I believe to be one of the most humbling opportunities to serve in all those capacities only by the good graces and trust that my membership has put in me, and I am thankful for that,” Simpson said.

The Division of Police has a policy governing social media usage, which requires employees to “consider how their personal conduct and statements may impair their work relationships.”

“At a minimum, Department employees shall not engage in slurs or demeaning behavior based on protected classes,” the policy says. “Department employees shall also not engage in personal attacks.”

When an employee is speaking as a representative of a bargaining unit, like the police union, however, those policies do not apply.

Simpson’s social media posts have drawn criticism from activists who support police reform and others in the community. In a July 27 post, he called body cameras “an insult to the profession” and said they have “ruined” policing.

“They were implemented off of a flat out ‘hands up, don’t shoot lie.’ They are a gold mine for the media & cause officers to be tried & convicted in the court of public opinion (which causes chaos) before an investigation begins,” he posted on X.