A former police officer in Victoria, Australia, has been backed by his police colleagues after being dismissed for posting “racist” and “homophobic” comments online.
After being fired from his job earlier this year for posting a series of racist and homophobic comments online, Sergeant Bruno Staffieri has appeared at a dismissal hearing to plead for his job back.
The 62-year-old appeared before the hearing along with five fellow officers, his partner and a priest.
At the hearing, Staffieri argued that he was merely expressing his Christian beliefs, saying that he “didn’t mean to offend anyone” and “won’t do it again”.
Not homophobic, just ‘repulsed’ by gays
Staffieri’s dismissal resulted from many offending comments including one made in response to a Victoria Police LinkedIn post that supported members of the LGBTQIA+ community for “WearItPurpleDay” in 2021.
In his comment, he wrote, “I do not bully or tease or harass these people. I just don’t agree with what they do as it disgusts and repulses me…I hate having it shoved in my face.”
And in March of last year, Staffieri also reportedly posted on Facebook about an ABC News report on a Western Sydney teacher who started a gay pride group for students.
“What a disgrace. Bad enough having gay, non-binary teachers, but to have them push their filth on students is a disgraceful crime. Why can’t we sack these teachers?” Staffieri allegedly said.
Other comments also include one left on a Daily Mail article about an Indigenous woman who was unfairly denied a taxi in Cairns in 2022.
“You people cause your own problems (not all of you). Don’t blame the whitefella,” he wrote.
The PRSB president Andrea Lester listed many of “the 68 rationalizations” Mr Staffieri had given for his offensive comments during numerous interviews and said, “You were joking…it’s a different police force now…people didn’t make complaints.”
Victoria Police’s representative, Inspector Michala Maskell, also argued against Mr. Staffieri’s reinstatement.
At the hearing, Maskell described Staffieri’s behaviour as “absolutely appalling” and harmful for both Victorian Police and the wider community:
“They were simply, hurtful, mean and harmful … (and) not in line with the community of today,” she said.
In referring to his letter of apology to the force, she labelled him “self serving” and said she had “no faith that training in the future will work”.
Staffieri is a ‘victim’ of a ‘witch-hunt’, say police officer colleagues
However, Staffieri’s police buddies appearing alongside him describe his dismissal as “completely unfair”.
Meanwhile, in a comment to the Herald Sun, another former colleague and friend of Staffieri says he is merely a “victim of evolution”.
“This whole thing is a witch-hunt,” Staffieri’s friend says. “Bruno had a dignified career” and has “always stood up for what’s right,” he continues.
“Thirty-seven years of service speaks for itself.”
Another former colleague and ex-detective sergeant accused Victoria Police of “testing the boundaries of freedom of speech,” calling his friend’s posts “colorful.”
“This is a character assassination,” he said.
The board has not yet made its decision, and Staffieri will hand a copy of his Fair Work complaint, which he submitted after his dismissal, to the board.
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