Social Media Sins: Why Do Public Safety Personnel Keep Getting into Trouble?

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Social Media Sins: Why Do Public Safety Personnel Keep Getting into Trouble?

 

Gordon Graham
Category: Public Safety

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for public safety.

Public safety employees run the risk of getting into trouble with what they post.

Today’s tip deals with freedom of speech and the use of social media. 

Now, I already know what you’re thinking. “Since when did Lexipol start running re-runs on Today’s Tips? You’ve already covered this topic. More than once, in fact.” 

Well, we aren’t running re-runs, but I do believe that we may set a record here for the most times that a single topic has been covered in Today’s Tips. But it happened again. I recently read about a public safety officer getting in hot water over comments he made on his Facebook account about the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Let me be clear here. These comments were posted on a personal Facebook account while he was off-duty. He was not in any way, shape or form acting or posting in his official capacity as a public safety officer.  

What? Am I saying that public safety employees run the risk of getting into trouble with what they post—even when they are off-duty and not representing the department? YES, YES, YES, that is EXACTLY what I am saying. I will save you the lengthy legal history but you simply cannot post whatever you want to on social media, even if you are off-duty. 

Maybe he had a crystal ball. But over 120 years ago, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote this about a police officer’s First Amendment rights. He “may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.” 

Once again, I remind you: Watch what you post to your Facebook account. 

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham here, signing off. 

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