Democratic Missouri state representative and St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) spokesman Jeff Roorda has never left any ambiguity about where he stands on police matters.
But on Sunday, his criticism of several St. Louis Rams players for their “hands up, don’t shoot” pose in solidarity with Ferguson protesters set off a torrent of condemnation on Twitter. The social media analytics firm Topsy logged over 9,000 tweets with his name over 24 hours, almost all of them negative.
The gesture by five Rams players came during the team’s first home game since a St. Louis grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. Roorda called for the NFL to issue an apology, and to discipline the players involved.
"I'd remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser's products," he said in a SLPOA statement. "It's cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it's not the NFL and the Rams, then it'll be cops and their supporters.
"[To] take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, that is way out-of-bounds, to put it in football parlance."
Roorda's strongly worded statement, using racially charged language such as "violent thugs," is only the latest in a series of comments and actions that has drawn the ire of Ferguson protesters and their sympathizers.
He has spoken out against police cameras, an idea that has gained public support in the wake of Brown’s death. “In general, cameras have been bad for law enforcement and the communities they protect,” Roorda was quoted as saying recently in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It causes constant second-guessing by the courts and the media.”
He was also quoted as saying cameras have been used "to pile petty discipline on our officers," for things like rolling through a stop sign or for not wearing a seatbelt. Last year, he publicly defended an officer who was fired after surveillance video showed him assaulting a handcuffed teenager.
To critics, Roorda has rarely, if ever, acknowledged police wrongdoing.
In October, a St. Louis Metropolitan police officer called the job of Ferguson protest organizer Leigh Maibes to warn her employer about her off-the-clock activism. She considered it an act of intimidation, and posted a video online of her confronting the officer by phone, and filed a complaint against the officer.
Roorda responded with a statement defending the officer’s actions. He said Maibes was "feign[ing] righteous indignation" when a police officer was only taking steps to defend himself. "Police officers are not second-class citizens,” he said. "They enjoy First Amendment rights and every other right that is enjoyed by every other citizen and we will aggressively defend those rights to our last breath.”
Earlier in his career, Roorda worked as a police officer in the St. Louis area. According to court records, he was reprimanded after allegedly covering up for a fellow officer and issuing a falsified report. Later, he was fired after lying about interactions with fellow officers, where he accused them of threatening and abusing him.
As a state representative, Roorda introduced an amendment that would have prevented the public from obtaining "any records and documents pertaining to police shootings … if they contain the name of any officer who did the shooting.” But the amendment failed to garner enough votes.
Roorda is also a board member and spokesman for Shields of Hope, a non-profit run by a Missouri police union that helped raise over $400,000 for Wilson.
Last month, Roorda lost a bid for a seat in the Missouri State Senate, even though he enjoyed strong support from Gov. Jay Nixon.
On Monday, the NFL released a statement saying it would not discipline the Rams players for striking the "hands up, don't shoot" pose.
"We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation," the statement read.
The SLPOA did not respond to Fusion's request for comment for this story.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.