NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- A veteran Newark police lieutenant was fired Wednesday over a Facebook exchange referring to the city's black mayor as a gorilla, a department spokesman said Thursday.

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The department launched an investigation into Lt. Anthony Caruso in July after a screenshot of his Facebook conversation was sent to police officials, NJ.com reported. A retired officer posted a photo of a gorilla with a caption that referred to Mayor Ras Baraka. The 23-year police veteran replied with the word "exactly" and four exclamation marks.

"As we continue to improve our community relations and to develop police legitimacy, we will not condone the type of behavior that Lt. Caruso displayed while referring to a member of our city administration as a gorilla," Police Director Eugene Venable said in a statement.

Sgt. Ron Glover said the department doesn't actively monitor employees' social media activity, but a policy is in place governing online conduct. It prohibits employees from making any comment that defames the department or is derogatory toward the city or any of its employees. Venable said Caruso "willfully" violated that policy.

Caruso couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

 

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