April 24, 2019

By Robert Gundran and Beatriz Valenzuela, San Bernardino Sun

The Fontana Police Department no longer says its Twitter account was hacked — instead saying Wednesday, April 24, an off-duty employee was responsible for a since-deleted tweet calling Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) “un-American.”

Police in a statement called the incident an embarrassment that does not reflect the values of the department’s personnel.

The tweet was initially posted Tuesday morning in response to Tlaib’s comments encouraging action aimed at shutting down U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The comments were made earlier this month at a Detroit fundraiser for the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights.

“Nice knowing you! I became bulimic because I vomit every time I hear your BS. You are one of the most un-American persons I know. You are a disgrace to the office you hold,” the tweet read.

It was deleted later Tuesday.

Officials said the department has since revoked access from that employee to the department’s Twitter account. The employee on Wednesday was not identified.

Police said a personnel investigation has been initiated and actions will be followed in accordance with the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Los Angeles Office (CAIR-LA) earlier Wednesday criticized the Police Department for the deleted tweet about Tlaib and called on the department and the Fontana City Council to conduct and publicize an investigation into the matter.

CAIR-LA did not accept the initial explanation of apparent hacking, communicated by a police spokesman Tuesday.

“We condemn the tweet sent out by the Fontana Police Department attacking a member of Congress with such hate and vitriol,” CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said in a statement Wednesday. “We find it highly unlikely someone hacked the Twitter account of the Fontana Police Department to send out one specific tweet. The current trend of normalizing hate speech has emboldened bigots in their speech, as well as in their actions and it is obvious that bigotry exists within the ranks of the Fontana Police Department.”

“We call for the Fontana Police Department and the Fontana City Council to conduct an open and thorough investigation into the matter. We also ask the results of the investigation to be shared with the residents of Fontana and the public-at-large,” he added.

CAIR-LA Communications Manager Eugene Fields clarified why CAIR-LA viewed the Fontana Police Department’s tweet as hateful and vitriolic.

“We contend that the tweet disparages Rep. Tlaib based on her highly-publicized status of being one of the first two Muslim American woman elected to Congress,” Fields said. “There are numerous members of Congress – within the state of California – who are vocal critics of ICE and they neither have not, nor are not being called ‘un-American for their criticism.’”

Tlaib took office in January and represents Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. She has been a vocal critic of ICE, saying it is “terrorizing our communities with zero accountability,” and has backed efforts to impeach President Donald Trump.

“It’s language like this from institutions or persons of authority, like the Fontana Police Department and the president, that fuel hate speech and have turned that speech into action – as we have witnessed through violence at synagogues, churches and mosques, as well as threats of violence against Reps. Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and bomb threats called against our Valley Banquet in March and our office building last week,” Fields said.

Brian Levin, director at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, also weighed in.

“Ad-hominem hateful tweets, like those directed against Congressperson Tlaib, have no place in a civil community discussion, and certainly not from an official police Twitter feed. Therefore, we await the outcome of investigations, so those responsible are held to account,” Levin said.

“This is an embarrassment to the Fontana Police Department,” the Police Department said in a statement Wednesday. “This careless act does not reflect the values of the men and women that honorably serve our community.”