Denver Police Department fires officer over ‘Let’s start a riot’ Instagram post

The department found Thomas McClay violated its social media policy.

Protesters and police clashed on the second night of protests in downtown Denver during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd on Friday, May 29, 2020. Protesters and police clashed on the second night of protests in downtown Denver during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd on Friday, May 29, 2020. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Protesters and police clashed on the second night of protests in downtown Denver during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd on Friday, May 29, 2020. Protesters and police clashed on the second night of protests in downtown Denver during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd on Friday, May 29, 2020. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

staff photos

The Denver Police Department on Tuesday fired Officer Thomas McClay for violating the department’s social media policy when he wrote “Let’s start a riot” under a picture of him and two other officers on his now-deleted Instagram account.

Police had already removed McClay, who joined DPD in 2019 according to a Facebook post, from the field and put him in a position out of the public eye, according to a DPD spokesman.

A screenshot of the Instagram post.

A screenshot of the Instagram post.

The investigation was quick. Chief Paul Pazen initiated the inquiry, which was conducted by Internal Affairs, a sector within the police department responsible for investigations and overseen by the Office of the Independent Monitor.

Denver police are prohibited from posting things to social media that impairs “working relationships of this department for which loyalty and confidentiality are important,” DPD’s social media policy states. It adds that officers should not “publish materials that could reasonably be considered to represent the views or positions of this department without written permission from the Chief of Police.”

In a statement, Mayor Michael Hancock said he supported the decision.

Tuesday evening, Denver’s police union released a statement about the firing of Officer Thomas McClay, saying that the Instagram post was “misguided” and that “It is time to end utilizing social media as a tool to divide. It is time to sit down and talk face to face.”

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