Elgin cop retires after questions about Twitter posts
An Elgin police officer announced his immediate retirement after being asked about statements he made on Twitter, including laughing about a protester who reportedly lost an eye after he was struck by a police tear gas canister in Indiana.
Detective Brian Lawrence, 52, a 25-year veteran of the department, retired Wednesday, the day the Daily Herald contacted him and police administration for comment about his Twitter posts. Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley said Lawrence was informed he was going to be put on immediate administrative leave pending an internal investigation, and he responded by submitting his retirement letter.
Lawrence said Thursday he'd already been pondering when he'd retire and didn't want to be "a distraction" to the police department, particularly during fraught times of protests against police across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
"I am passionate about the people that work in the department and the work that they are doing," he said. "It was time to go. It was like, 'You know what? I screwed up.'"
The department's social media policy states that officers "shall conduct themselves with professionalism and in such a manner that will not negatively reflect on the department or its mission. Personnel are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not impair working relationships within the department; impede the performance of duties; create disharmony amongst co-workers; or negatively affect the public's perception of the department."
Lawrence since has disabled his Twitter account, in which he identified himself as an Elgin officer.
On Tuesday, Lawrence responded to a Twitter post about a New York Post article about the protester losing his eye. "This is not funny, the guy just lost an eye," he wrote, then inserted laughing emojis and added, "I knew I couldn't say that with a straight face."
"It was extremely callous and inappropriate," Lawrence said Thursday about his post. "In retrospect, I don't know who that guy is. I don't know if he was standing in a group of peaceful protesters, or if he was a reporter or some guy trying to get into Starbucks to get a latte."
In a Twitter post May 29, Lawrence said, "This brought a smile to my face!" about a video of a woman being knocked out by a Baltimore police officer after she hit, twice, another officer in the face.
"Probably, as a police officer, (the tweet) was inappropriate," Lawrence said Thursday. "The reason it made me smile was seeing one officer backing up another one who clearly was under attack."
On May 30, a Twitter user asked, "If the police start shooting the white rioters, would anybody care?" Lawrence responded, "Each one will be 'a good 31-year-old boy who was planning to go to medical school.'"
"I would take that back," Lawrence said Thursday. "That was more of a statement of, not everybody that the police shoot are law-abiding citizens that were brutally murdered."
Lawrence said the four Minneapolis officers "were appropriately charged" in the death of George Floyd on May 25. On Twitter, he wrote that deadly force was not justified and indicated his support of police culture shunning bad cops.
Lawrence worked in the juvenile division for the last 18 years. His Twitter posts include one Feb. 26 deploring a 6-year-old girl being handcuffed, brought to a detention center and charged with criminal battery. "One of the most outrageous things I've ever heard of," Lawrence wrote.
Lawrence's annual salary was $98,645 and he is eligible to receive a pension.
His father was an Elgin officer who retired 30 years ago also on June 2, Lawrence said.
"I definitely did not live up to the standards I was taught," he said, "not only by my dad, but the standards of the Elgin Police Department."