Court: Attempt to silence officer violated First Amendment

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal appeals court panel has found that firing a Springfield police officer who refused to sign an agreement prohibiting her from saying or writing anything negative about the department or the city violated her First Amendment right to free speech.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Wednesday that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to a federal judge in Eugene to determine whether the city of Springfield is liable for the police chief's decision to restrict Officer Thelma Barone.

The chief offered Barone a "last-chance agreement" after a suspension: She could return only if she didn't criticize police, the city or its staff in writing or in speech.

The appellate panel said the restriction was too broad.

Lawyers for Springfield argued the speech restriction is necessary to maintain "the effective and efficient operation of the police department" and safeguard the public's opinion of police.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com