NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The head of the Irvington police union and three other officers are being investigated for making gangsta rap videos, according to officials.
As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, Officer Maurice Gattison raps under the name “Gat the Great.”
He has appeared in numerous videos. One features Gattison rapping about drinking, using an anti-gay epithet and calling himself a “felon for life.” In one scene Gattison, clad in a fur coat, sits in a car and tells others they might have to meet a Smith & Wesson. He then briefly points his finger at the camera as though he’s firing a gun.
“The lyrics that I used in no way did I intent for them to be perceived as homophobic or anything like that,” Gattison told CBS 2’s Sloan on Tuesday.
The case has sparked a debate over free speech and whether officers are bound by the same rules of behavior on and off duty.
The police department’s Internal Affairs unit has launched an investigation into the videos, Sloan reported.
“He has exercised his First Amendment rights and we anticipate that there will no charges criminally or departmentally brought against Officer Gattison,” said the officer’s attorney, Anthony Iacullo.
Three other Irvington police officers are in the video. Their boss said he understands their First Amendment rights, but notes that officers are held to a higher standard.
“The standard that we look at and that we’re going to apply is whether or not the behavior creates a negative impression upon the police department and affects our ability to enforce the law,” Police Director Joseph Santiago told Sloan.
Some residents agree with the internal investigation.
“I think it’s disgusting,” Andre Norris told CBS 2’s Sloan. “It makes the citizens of Irvington look bad, especially because that’s not how they dress, that’s not how they behave.”
But Gattison defended himself, saying he was just expressing himself musically.
“I dress like this every day at work. I work in narcotics, that’s how I fit in,” Gattison told Sloan. “Would my conduct come under question if I was at karaoke night and singing a Tupac song?”
Gattison said he has been rapping for years.
“I could see if I was targeting somebody, but it’s just a lyrical exercise,” he told the Newark Star-Ledger.
Irvington Township Attorney Marvin Braker said the videos were disturbing but could be protected under the First Amendment.
Gattison said he was asked to perform at the department’s holiday party.
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