A North Carolina Sheriff’s Deputy was fired after a camera caught him flashing the middle finger at a driver Feb. 26.
Van Anthony, 52, gave the rude gesture to civilian driver Scott Lipe, who was filming Anthony from another car after catching him speeding, Fox News reports.
"I could see him coming up in the rear view mirror, and I was like, 'This car is flying.' So my phone was sitting beside me in the seat," Lipe said, WLOS reports.
The driver explained after he pulled out his camera, the officer waved and gave him the finger.
"He's a deputy. He's in a patrol car in a uniform with a badge, and there's people all over the place. And he's just waving his finger around like he doesn't care," Lipe said. "I mean if you look at the picture, he's just smiling and having a good time."
The sheriff later apologized to Lipe and, after being their employee for nearly two years, was fired by Jackson County Sheriff's Office.
"They hold us accountable, and sometimes they have to be held accountable," Lipe explained.
Indeed, there have been many instances where civilians have gotten into trouble with law enforcement for holding up the same gesture.
William Martin received a disorderly conduct summons after flipping off an aggressive driver who turned out to be a police officer, the Bergendis Patch reports.
“When I received a summons, I felt that my free speech rights were under attack for nothing more than expressing my frustration with someone whose driving had put people at risk,” Martin said.
The ACLU agreed and defended Martin, whose charges were later dismissed. ACLU-NJ Deputy Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero, Martin’s representative, said:
Enforcing manners rather than public safety is a poor use of police resources. Our client expressed his frustration using a peaceful, silent gesture that is protected by the First Amendment. In this case, an officer chose to initiate and escalate an encounter instead of just ignoring it. It might be rude to flip off a police officer, but it isn’t a crime.”
Martin was grateful when the charges against him were dismissed.
“I’m relieved to know that the town of New Milford recognized it wasn’t worth prosecuting me for expressing my frustration,” he explained.