Female Deputy in Washington State Fired for Wearing 'Proud Boys' Sweatshirt
A female deputy in Clark County, Washington, was fired after a photograph of her wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a "Proud Boys" logo surfaced on social media:
The Proud Boys is a right-wing group founded by actor/writer/comedian Gavin McInnes that describes its members as "Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world." Proud Boys frequently show up at protests and rallies nationwide to counteract violent left-wing groups like Antifa:
Our group is and will always be MEN ONLY (born with a penis if that wasn’t clear enough for you leftists)! If you are (and were born) a woman and you would like to be involved, there is a girls group. They call themselves Proud Boys’ Girls and they’re our second-biggest demographic.”
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office initially placed Deputy Erin Willey on leave pending an internal investigation after a local newspaper, The Columbian, shared a photograph of Willey wearing "a hooded sweatshirt with a logo showing a switchblade, lipstick and an abbreviation for Proud Boys’ Girls" with the sheriff's office. Willey was hired in May of 2017 and was let go on July 17 following the Columbian's report.
The sheriff's department did not specify the reasoning behind Willey's firing, but according to the Columbian, it was because of the photo:
Willey is also shown in a second photograph shared on a Proud Boys-affiliated Twitter page, which included her contact information for buying Proud Boys’ Girls merchandise.
Clark County Undersheriff Mike Cooke declined to speak in more detail on the investigation or Willey’s termination, saying it’s a personnel matter.
Willey did not return requests for comment.
In a statement, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said:
Law enforcement officers are peacekeepers whose core mission is to protect and safeguard the community. My expectation is that my employees do not engage in activities or associations that undermine or diminish our role as peacekeepers.
There seems to be a grey area for Clark County officers regarding their free speech rights. Included in the Clark County Sheriff's Office's Code of Ethics is an expectation that officers "will keep [their] private [lives] unsullied as an example to all," but it's not clear how Willey's association with the Proud Boys "sullies" her private life or diminishes her role as a peacekeeper.
On their website, the Proud Boys clearly disavow white nationalists.
They say they "confuse the media because the group is anti-SJW without being alt-right. 'Western chauvinist' includes all races, religions, and sexual preferences." Besides the United States, there are Proud Boys chapters in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Israel.