Veteran police officer was fired for flying a Confederate flag outside of her home
The woman claimed she had no idea that it was offensive or that it had been a controversial topic in the news for over a year.
53-year-old Roswell Police Department Sgt. Silvia Cotriss was fired from the department in July 2016 after a complaint was filed against her by a member of the public for flying a Confederate Flag in front of her house.
As reported by My Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cotriss was surprise on July 11 when she was informed that the department had launched an investigation into her for behavior unbecoming of an officer of the law.
While Roswell Police Chief Rusty Grant refused to comment on the matter, Cotriss spoke up to say that if she had known it would offend people she would never have done it.
For 20 years as Cotriss served on the police force, she received nothing but commendations for her work from the public, colleagues, and her supervisors.
The first trouble came in 2014, when she was suspended for 3 days without pay for "failure to take appropriate action" when she discovered that a fellow member of the force had failed to respond to a police call.
Aside from that incident, Cotriss was an exemplary member of the police.
But on July 11, a man taking his children to school had driven past Cotriss' home and seen the flag flying directly under the American flag. He sent an email to Chief Grant about it.
Cotriss says she and her late husband were given the flag in May 2015 in Panama City, Florida, when they attended the Thunder Beach biker festival.
The flag had a motorcycle in the center. But after some time, the Confederate symbol become tattered in the wind, and Cotriss had asked a friend to take it down. When a neighbor noticed, they offered her a new one, without the motorcycle.
She agreed, and hung up the new one in the old one's place, up the flagpole under the American flag.
After the complaint was lodged, she immediately removed the flag.
“Cotriss explained that the flag was part of her history, part of the South, part of history involving the Civil War. She denied having negative feelings regarding the flag,” according to Cotriss' case file. “Cotriss was asked as a police officer, how could she not have known about the Confederate flag and its negative connotations. She said that she was unaware until the investigator brought it to her attention.”
She further claimed that she doesn't watch the news, so she had no idea that the flag had been causing plenty of controversy in the preceding year, with a man shooting up an African-American church congregation with the flag.
Four days after the complaint was lodged, Cotriss was fired.
Cynthia Counts, an Atlanta First Amendment attorney, explained that Cotriss is within her First Amendment right to display the flag, there is a different legal precedent for officers of the law, particularly given the current climate in the US.