Roanoke Police Lt. Derek Farr is facing disciplinary action as the result of an investigation into a controversial Facebook post he made May 30.
Neither Roanoke Police Chief Adam Melton nor Mayor Mike Fisher would specify what that disciplinary action is, but Fisher did confirm Farr plans to appeal that action and he will be granted a hearing for that appeal in the near future as part of standard due process in city personnel cases.
Farr was placed on paid administrative leave last week in response to his Facebook post that questioned the protesting that has taken place following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Farr, who is also a Randolph County Commissioner, wrote, "Protesting? Yea right! More like thugs being thugs. It's kind of hard to get people to believe that you're living in fear. Just saying ..."
The administrative leave is standard procedure any time an officer is the subject of an internal investigation, according to Melton. Melton did not comment any further, citing the ongoing nature of the case.
Farr, who is the police department's lieutenant in charge of day-shift patrol, was asked about the situation following Monday's county commission meeting. He responded only to say he would withhold his comments until the investigation is complete. When contacted Tuesday, Farr also declined to specify the nature of the disciplinary action he received but confirmed that he would appeal that action.
Farr's Facebook post led to a petition circulated by the Randolph County Branch of the NAACP.
The petition decried the post as "inflammatory, racially insensitive, offensive and unprofessional," and placed it in the context of the larger protest movement following the May death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police, which has since been ruled a homicide.
"We feel that [Farr's] statement is representative of the culture that exists within law enforcement nationwide," the petition said. "This same culture has resulted in the death of hundreds of young black men and women - and most recently, Mr. George Floyd - and has our nation in crisis right now."
The petition also called for punitive action against Farr, asking that the Roanoke City Council "give careful and thoughtful consideration to terminating Officer Farr from the Roanoke Police Department," or in lieu of that, "... that he be reduced in rank."
Local NAACP President Delvan Houston said the petition had nearly 800 online signatures and over 200 hand-written signatures as of Monday night.
(The full text of the petition can be viewed at https://www.change.org/p/roanoke-city-council-termination-of-officer-derek-farr )
Houston met with Melton and the Roanoke City Council in executive session for over an hour during Monday's council meeting. The executive session was legally required because the nature of the meeting addressed the good name and character of someone. While that person was not named at any time during the public portion of the meeting, the circumstances of the meeting strongly indicated Farr was the subject.
After being notified of the disciplinary action Tuesday, Farr must appeal that action in writing within three days in order to be granted a hearing.
Once that appeal is made, the hearing will be scheduled. Fisher said the hearing would likely take place some time in the next two weeks.
Farr will remain on paid leave until the appeal process is complete or the situation is otherwise resolved.