A high-ranking California police lieutenant has been placed on leave after he sent a newspaper a letter condemning the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide. He signed the letter with his rank and employer — and the newspaper editor says that's how he wanted it to appear in print.
In a letter to the editor of the Stockton Record, Stockton Police Lt. Toby Will called legal same-sex marriage “blatant debauchery.” The letter, titled “Marriage ruling shuns God,” was posted online on July 7.
The Stockton Record then printed an article headlined “Cop’s letter sparks concern." It quoted police spokesman Joe Silva as saying Will “does not speak for the Police Department, and regarding his use of his police position, it is under administrative review.”
Silva told NBC News that Will was officially placed on paid administrative leave on July 13, pending the outcome of the review.
The following day, the editor of the paper, Mike Klocke, wrote a lengthy response to questions the paper had received about printing the letter. He said Will was adamant that he wanted his official title to be printed if the letter was published.
Police chief Eric Jones told NBC affiliate KCRA that part of the investigation into Will's actions while he is on leave will focus on whether the lieutenant purposefully misrepresented the view of the entire department “because of the indication that it may have purported that it was the statement of the police department.”
Jones visited the San Joaquin Pride Center with other Stockton officers on Thursday night to assure attendees that the Stockton Police Department is accepting. “We are responsible for treating everyone fairly and equitably — and that's what tonight was all about," Jones said at the meeting.
Renee Hall, president of the board for Pride Center, said she was “shocked” when she first read the letter. "I feel like if something like that gets out in the public from a pretty prominent person, then it gives folks the ability to act on those things," she told KCRA.
The Stockton Record printed several letters from readers responding to Will. Some readers supported his opinion, but disagreed with his choice to make them known in a public forum, while others supported his view and his choice to speak out. Others wholeheartedly disagreed with Will.
“I resent this man with real authority insinuating his law enforcement position into this discussion,” one reader wrote.