Wed, Dec 08, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Free speech doesn't help naked police officer keep his job


The naked truth, the Supreme Court says, is that the US Constitution's free speech guarantee doesn't protect a police officer who used the Internet to sell videotapes of himself stripping off his uniform and pretending to write tickets.

The court traditionally has been very protective of speech rights. But justices had no sympathy Monday for a former San Diego officer who uses the Internet name "Code3stud," a play on words incorporating the term for an emergency police call.

The policeman, identified in court papers only as "John Roe," contended his free speech rights were violated when his bosses learned of his outside activities, gave him a warning, then fired him.

The Supreme Court ruled against him without even hearing arguments. The justices issued an unsigned opinion that found his speech "was detrimental to the mission and functions of the employer."

"It's unanimous, a signal that the court thought it was a constitutional no-brainer," said free speech expert Keith Werhan of Tulane University in New Orleans.

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