SALEM, Ore. -- A Chicago woman says she was trolled online by members of two Oregon law enforcement agencies.
Liz McArthur is taking the Salem Police Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Office to task over the politically fueled online trolling.
An SPD spokesman said the officer has done nothing wrong. Marion County is still looking into the allegations against the deputy.
“I've never had this happen before,” McArthur told KGW via Facetime Sunday.
She said the men targeting her were strangers, and that their comments went on for hours before she discovered two of them were law enforcement officers.
McArthur said it all started on November 20, when she posted a link to an editorial written by a Huffington Post contributor.
The piece, titled “Women Of The World: It’s Time To March On Washington,” encouraged women to attend the planned “Women’s March on Washington” on January 21, the day after Donald Trump’s scheduled inauguration.
McArthur’s caption read “I am going.”
“I didn't want to spark any sort of debate. I just wanted to feel empowered and say that this was happening,” she said.
Within hours the trolls arrived, she said.
One of the first comments came from James Coleman.
Screenshots taken by McArthur show he posted a meme featuring Elsa from the movie “Frozen” and reading, “Election is over. Let it go.”
He then posted a link to a guide for Paxil, an anti-depressant. McArthur said he wrote "Irrational ... turmoil ... tummy breath ... it will calm you..."
McArthur said Coleman kept posting and tagged friends.
“It was kind of an out-of-body, like, a bad dream,” she said. “It was sort of spinning out of control.”
One of the men tagged, Chad Galusha, posted a meme, showing Hillary Clinton. It read, "The first woman in the U.S. to lose two presidential elections."
He posted another showing a Clinton supporter crying. It read, “When everyone gets a trophy, you don’t know how to lose.”
McArthur swore at the men, told them to stop and tried to ignore it.
Galusha then posted another meme, reading, "Just a troll fishing for liberals."
That’s when someone else wrote something about the men themselves.
“I was in complete disbelief. I only know great cops,” she said.
McArthur discovered James Coleman was, in fact, Deputy James Coleman of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Chad Galusha was Officer Chad Galusha of the Salem Police Department.
McArthur said once that information was revealed, the men began deleting their comments. She managed to grab screenshots of some.
“It's behavior of a coward, and I know police officers are brave. They're not cowards, and that's what trolling is,” she said. “They were like a faceless mob to me.”
McArthur also wrote a letter to both agencies, reporting the behavior.
It read, about Deputy Coleman: “I don't need to explain what he was doing. He was trolling me. I know that… Each time he tried to engage me, I responded exclusively with "get f*****". I don't know this man, did I mention that? He came at ME. As I said, we are not friends on Facebook. He went WAY out of his way to come after me and at one point he even started tagging his friends in empty comments for...backup? No idea. But then I had his Facebook mob after me. Which I understand isn't a real mob, but it was unwanted, unprovoked and disturbing.”
McArthur said Sunday, she doesn’t want the men fired. She said does want an apology.
“When people are getting harassed, they're supposed to be able to go to the police, and I wouldn't feel safe coming to either of those men,” she said.
When asked if she still plans to go to January’s march, she responded, “Absolutely.”
KGW reached out to both agencies.
A spokesman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office only said they are “looking into it”.
Lt. Steve Birr from the Salem Police Department said Sunday McArthur’s complaint was reviewed by internal affairs and the Salem city attorney’s office. They determined Officer Galusha was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.
Lt. Birr added Galusha was off duty when he made the comment and didn’t advertise himself as an officer of the Salem Police Department.
“When he took the oath to protect the Constitution, it didn’t mean he gave up his Constitutional First Amendment right,” he said of Galusha.
He added Officer Galusha, in his posts, “was not homophobic, racist or anything else . . . maybe it was sophomoric.”
Lt. Birr explained the officer was cautioned about his social media actions in the future and said, “It’s unfortunate the woman in Chicago got her feelings hurt. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving dinner table, a bar or the internet, for a lot of people, discussing politics is not a good idea.”
On Monday afternoon, Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore issued the following state on the department's Facebook page:
“During the last week I have received numerous emails and viewed news coverage of complaints regarding a Salem police officer’s posts on another person’s Facebook page.
The Salem Police Department investigates and takes seriously all complaints regarding our officers both on and off duty.
I understand the emotions and discussion surrounding this situation. I also understand the community’s expectations of their police officers and how they conduct themselves.
Initial indications suggested the comments were protected speech. We are continuing to evaluate everything available to us to make a final determination.
As an agency, we are dedicated to keeping our community safe and respecting the rights of our community members. Rest assured, the police department will take the appropriate action based on all relevant information which has been made available to us.”