FORT LAUDERDALE — Luis Pagan, a veteran Fort Lauderdale police officer, has been fired for using the Twitter social media network while on duty to make offensive comments about citizens and to criticize his supervisors.
Pagan had been under investigation since last October while his Twitter activities were being investigated over tweets with porn stars and accounts of his encounters while on duty, as first reported by South Florida Times on Nov. 24. His handle on Twitter was “SoFlo Diver.” He deleted his tweets and closed his Twitter account following the publication of the story. At the time, Pagan had tweeted 3,576 times, had 84 followers on Twitter and was following 184 people.
Among the controversial tweets, he received this one: “They should tie all women’s tubes after they sign up for food stamps.” He responded to it.
Pagan was suspended with pay on Jan. 31 after other tweets he made were discovered during the investigation.
“Police officers are not substitute parents. If you were not ready for the responsibility of being a parent u should’ve used protection,” he tweeted on Oct. 5, 2011. “So deal with your own (expletive deleted) kids and stop calling the police because you’re a (expletive deleted) up parent.”
He was notified on March 24 that his status had been changed to suspension without pay for 20 days, after which time his termination will take effect.
“You are being dismissed because of deficiencies in performance and/or conduct. On October 6, 2011, you posted a comment on the social media network Twitter that read, ‘I wonder how a supervisor feels when no one in his specialty unit respects him because he got there by ending good ppls careers and because he is a racist (expletive deleted),’” Police Chief Franklin C. Adderley wrote in an internal memorandum dated March 23.
Pagan could not be reached for comment. During interviews with Internal Affairs investigators he acknowledged posting the tweets. He said some of them were just his opinions, while others were fabricated accounts of his police work.
He caught his supervisors’ attention last October when he tweeted, “Just caught a couple having sex in their car in a church parking lot. The car was shaking so much I thought it would flip.”
According to the investigation file, data from the GPS system installed on Pagan’s squad car confirmed he was in a church parking lot but there was no record of the dispatch or of the incident in his logs. Pagan told investigators he made the whole thing up.
“I embellished,” Pagan said. “It’s a made up tweet. It’s a lie.”
Some of his other tweets appear to refer to residents as “animals” and still more seemed to be aimed at supervisors.
“Instead of trying to make a name for yourself trying to hurt good officer u should be worrying about what to do to lower crime,” one tweet read.
Pagan denied that tweet was about a supervisor, saying it was instead aimed at Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein “going after officers.” The Public Defender’s Office has been conducting ongoing investigations into possible discrepancies in police officers’ reports about the arrests of its clients by using GPS, dispatch records and other data. That probe has resulted in several investigations and criminal charges being filed against a number of police officers.
“It’s childish but it doesn’t surprise or offend me,” Finkelstein said when contacted about Pagan’s statement. “My job is to disclose lies whether they are cops or anyone else and I plan to keep on doing it.”
Adderley, the police chief, was asked whether firing Pagan might be a violation of his First Amendment rights.
“The investigation is thorough and we sustained several charges against him including untruthfulness,” Adderley said. “When you look at all of those charges it shows poor judgment as well as his inability to be objective as a police officer when dealing with members of the public.”
Pagan had been with the department since 2005 and earned $77,771.20 annually. He worked in the patrol division and had a good employment history. His termination is effective April 20. He will then have the option of appealing his firing, which would eventually be decided by an arbitrator if no resolution is reached.
Photo: Luis Pagan