PLANTATION KEY -- The blurred line between free speech and what a person writes on his or her personal Facebook page came back to burn former Miami-Dade Fire Department Capt. Brian Beckmann on Monday, May 14.
Beckmann, a Plantation Key resident, was demoted to the rank of firefighter after an administrative hearing prompted by comments he posted about the Trayvon Martin shooting that went viral on the Internet.
Beckmann said he is now an active firefighter "for the first time in many years." He was additionally ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and diversity training.
"I am looking now for secondary employment," the 15-year Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department veteran told the Free Press last week. "I have my family to feed."
Beckmann said he is appealing his demotion through his union, Local 1403 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, his sole bargaining agent. He expects the process to last about six months.
Beckmann posted an opinion on his Facebook page about the Trayvon Martin shooting on April 11, the same day special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that second-degree murder charges would be leveled against volunteer neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.
"Listening to Prosecutor Corey blow herself and her staff for five minutes before pre-passing judgment on George Zimmerman," Beckmann posted April 11 on Facebook. "I and my coworkers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, s---bag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents, but like Mrs. Corey, we speak only the truth."
"They're just misunderstood little church-going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn't have anything to do with why people wonder if they're about to get jacked by a thug,"
Martin, whose parents are employed, was an unarmed black 17-year-old walking through his father's gated community in Sanford, Fla., when Zimmerman allegedly scuffled with Martin before shooting him. Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt the night he was killed.
The incident has sparked national furor and has prompted Florida's Gov. Rick Scott to re-examine the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law which allows anyone who fears for his life to use lethal force rather than retreat.
Beckmann's comments were picked up by someone who sent them to theGiro, an African-American news website. His posting prompted protestors to call for his firing.
"Being that he is a 'leader' in the [Miami-Dade Fire Rescue] organization, I seriously question his judgment and ability to make good sound decisions, especially where the community he supposedly protects is concerned," wrote a commenter.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement that he supports the department's decision to demote Beckmann.
Despite his appeal, Beckmann submitted an apology to Miami-Dade Fire Chief William Bryson.
"I promise that I will try harder than ever to be a decent and professional public servant to the citizens of Miami-Dade County," he wrote. "My family has suffered tremendously and this has been punishment beyond anything I ever imagined."