New York City police officers have free speech rights too, just as long as they talk though civilian channels, the 2nd Circuit ruled Thursday.

The potentially groundbreaking decision allows NYPD Officer Craig Matthews to sue the department for allegedly retaliating against him after he blew the whistle on police quotas in the Bronx, implemented in 2008.

Attorneys for Matthews say the decision could also unmuzzle public employees of all stripes.

Matthews, a 17-year police veteran of the 42nd Precinct, said that he started reporting issues with the policy to his then-commander, Capt. Timothy Brugge, in early 2009.

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