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City Police Officer Fired After Social Media Post

By Staff Reports
The Tube City Almanac
September 27, 2016
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

* CORRECTION, NOT PERFECTION: See editor's note.

A probationary police officer who had worked for the City of McKeesport for only a few weeks was fired Tuesday after a photo she posted on social media -- which included a racial slur --- went viral.

The police officer, identified by other sources as Melissa Adamson, was terminated immediately, Mayor Michael Cherepko said.

On Tuesday, a Facebook user shared a photo from the Snapchat online service that apparently originated from Adamson's account. The photo showed Adamson in a Pitcairn police department uniform with the caption, "I'm the law today n---a." *

Adamson is white. The photo spread quickly via Facebook and was picked up by Pittsburgh television stations, as well as national media outlets.

"This post displays a degree of conduct and character that is far different from what I would expect from an officer in this city," Cherepko said Tuesday night. "It is absolutely unacceptable."

Cherepko said that he and McKeesport police Chief Bryan Washowich "without hesitation" decided to relieve the officer of her duties.

But Adamson told Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV that she was the victim of a smear campaign by a former co-worker.

"Everyone that knows me knows I don’t have a racist bone in my body," Adamson told WTAE. "And people who don’t know me, I can understand why it was misconstrued to where it looks racist, but like I said everyone who knows me knows I’m not racist."

Friends of the officer also flooded Facebook groups with messages in support of Adamson, saying the post was misinterpreted and that Adamson is not a racist.

But Pitcairn borough police also issued a statement Tuesday disavowing the social media post. In a statement accompanied by a photo of Pitcairn police Chief Scott Farally, the department identified her as an "ex female employee" of the department.

The statement from Pitcairn police said the social media post "is protected under the First Amendment" but added "the content of the text in the picture ... is unacceptable."

"The Pitcairn Police Department holds high integrity for the community we serve and this type of conduct will not be tolerated," the statement concluded.

According to the Pitcairn Times-Express newspaper, Adamson was hired in Pitcairn in December 2015. Farally told WTAE that Adamson resigned from the Pitcairn department on Sept. 20 to take the McKeesport position.

WTAE reported that Adamson is also employed by Versailles police and that borough's council was having an emergency meeting on Tuesday to decide whether to fire her.

Adamson told the TV station she was sorry. "I can't express how sorry I am for how I made you feel --- emotionally, physically --- again, it wasn't my intention," she said. It "was a stupid mistake," Adamson said, according to WTAE. "It shouldn’t have been posted in general, regardless of how my intentions were."

Editor's Note: This story, relying on second-hand sources, originally misquoted the text attributed to Adamson. It has been updated. I apologize for the mistake.

Originally published September 27, 2016.

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