The Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9 and its president, Jeff Simpson, have filed a civil lawsuit seeking to halt an investigation by the city of Columbus into their activities that resulted from comments Simpson made on his X account in July 2023.
The lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, seeks a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against the city’s investigation into Simpson and any union activity. The lawsuit contends that Simpson was acting in his capacity as union president when he made his comments on his X account, and that any issues can be decided by an independent arbitrator.
The controversy arose when Simpson commented about country music star Jason Aldean’s song, “Try That In A Small Town” on his personal X account. The song and music video has drawn support from people in small towns and people generally on the right politically. It has also drawn backlash from Black civil rights leaders and people generally on the left politically for using lyrics and images deemed reminiscent of racism and lynching.
The music video featured footage from Black Lives Matter protests and was filmed in front of the Maury County courthouse in Tennessee, where Henry Choate, a Black teenager, was lynched by a white mob in 1927. The music video was eventually pulled from the Country Music Television rotation.
On his X account, Simpson wrote: “I hope this song goes to #1. The tolerant left is off the hook. People need to stand up and not be moved. Keep fighting for this country.”
Another user commented on Simpson’s post, telling him that the music video had been taken down by CMT because of allusions to lynching. Simpson replied, “Back in the day that was the penalty you got for doing really bad things. Today you get nothing.”
The back-and-forth on the social media platform drew a response from Tim Myers, a current deputy chief with the Division of Police.
“Jeff, if you think lynching is ‘the penalty you got for really bad things’ you really need to educate yourself,” Myers wrote. “This is unacceptable.”
Simpson then called Myers “idiotic,” and said it was “scary” that someone in Myers’ position would “make this judgmental stretch.”
Following the exchange on social media, a Black officer filed an equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint with the city about Simpson.
“These statements are not only concerning but make me feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe to work for the same Division of Police as him,” the officer wrote. “Simpson has already treated me unfairly and has denied me the same access my other coworkers have been granted. This all makes sense now as to why I have been treated this way.”
Harshman, Wannemacher, Tipton, and Lipperman, the Columbus law firm representing the FOP and Simpson in the matter, contend that Simpson’s comments on his X account were made while he was acting in his official union capacity and because they were in that capacity the FOP is not subordinate to the city.
The law firm said in a written statement: “The FOP is confident that any arbitrator will find the City’s investigation of the FOP President for engaging in protected union activity is a violation of the (labor) agreement.”
Simpson has been the president of the FOP Capital City Lodge No. 9 since April 2021 and is set to serve as president through December. He has also been both the grievance chairman for Columbus police and assistant grievance chair, elected FOP executive board trustee and elected as vice president, executive vice president and president of the union.
The FOP Capitol City Lodge #9 represents over 4,000 law enforcement officers throughout central Ohio. In the Columbus Division of Police, the organization represents over 1,800 members.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Fraternal Order of Police files lawsuit against Columbus to stop investigation
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