It’s a picture that’s now been shared widely across Oregon and the country.
The picture shows a keychain attached to Bend Police Cpl. Josh Spano’s uniform.
On it, the words “Molon Labe” are inscribed in Greek lettering.
And it’s created a stir.
“This keychain was given to me by a friend in the early days of my career in law enforcement,” Spano told Central Oregon Daily’s Samantha O’Connor in his only televised interview.
The phrase has Greek origins dating back thousands of years and loosely means “come and take them.”
“Basically in my belief system, it’s good versus evil,” Spano said, “I’ve never had anyone explain it to me as far left or far right. It’s never been explained to me that way and I’ve never understood it that way.”
On May 1st, a vocal critic of Bend Police under arrest for criminal trespassing snapped a photo of the keychain on Spano’s vest.
The photo– and others– were shared widely on social media and, in Spano’s eyes, portrayed him as someone he’s not.
“Accusing me of being racist, a white nationalist. I don’t adhere to any of those things at all. I have no connections to any group,” he said. “I work, I go home, I take care of my family, I spend a lot of time fishing. I don’t have time for any of that. I don’t appreciate people doing any of those things.”
Spano, a former Army medic, is firm in his stance against racism and white supremacy but the phrase on his keychain has been adopted by various pro-gun and anti-government groups as a phrase of defiance.
The keychain was attached to his patrol car key and clearly visible while on duty.
Now, it’s under investigation by his superiors.
“The Bend Police Department has been made aware of allegations that have been posted on social media regarding one of our employees displaying an item that was inconsistent with our uniform last week and alleged to be an item in support of extremist ideologies,” Chief Michael Krantz said in a statement. “The Bend Police Department will be reviewing this information and conducting an inquiry into the alleged policy violations.
“The Bend Police Department stresses that there is no place in policing for extremism or violent ideologies, and if held, those beliefs would be incompatible with law enforcement. Fair, equitable and community-based policing are reflected in our policies and training and the expectations of our employees.”
Spano, a Bend Police officer since 2015, said he wouldn’t put up a fight if his bosses determine he violated department policy.
“Ultimately I work for a municipality that has city councilors and a city manager and an agency head,” he said. “If they decide that I can’t have it, then I won’t have it.”