PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — A former central Illinois officer who was fired for inappropriate social media use says the posts were protected under the First Amendment.

Former Peoria police officer Jeremy Layman is asking a federal judge to declare the Facebook posts he made while off duty as protected, The Journal Star reported.

Layman filed a lawsuit against the city that included the request in July. The lawsuit lists six statements that allegedly led to his February termination from the police department after 17 years of employment.

City Attorney Don Leist declined to comment on the pending litigation.

However, Shane Voyles, a Springfield-based attorney for the union that represents Peoria's police officers, said the lawsuit is about protecting Layman's rights.

"At this point, the union is just trying to make sure that his constitutional rights are protected." Voyles said. "The lawsuit is about whether the statements, no matter whether a person agrees or disagrees with them, fall into the category of protected speech."

He said the Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association is trying to determine where the line should be drawn for police officers when they are not acting in their official capacity.

"I do not believe that police officers surrender any fundamental rights just because of their position," Voyles said.

Layman was criticized for several controversial social media posts, including one with a picture of a shirt that said "Baby Daddy Removal Team."

Some community members voiced their displeasure with the posts, calling them inappropriate.

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Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com