1st Amendment News

Free speech: Police officer gets desk duty over indiscreet posting on Facebook

Free speech rights of police officers in the social media are clashing with their law enforcement responsibilities as illustrated by a recent case in Albuquerque where a police officer listed his occupation on Facebook as “human waste disposal.” A TV station discovered the gaffe after the officer was involved in a fatal off-duty shooting in February.

In response to this and other instances across the country, police departments are developing social media policies. The courts have supported free speech limits when the speech of government employees is job related.

In The New York Times, Erica Goode quotes David. L. Hudson Jr., of the First Amendment Center about the viability of such limits, “The question of when employees can be disciplined for off-duty speech is hazy. Part of our core nature is what we do for a living, and to prohibit somebody from engaging in any kind of expression related to their job is arguably too broad.”

From The New York Times, April 6, 2011, by Erica Goode.

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  1. mrfuddlesticks
    December 1, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    I tend to agree that officers speaking out can be internally disciplined. But in the case of Mr Fuddlesticks and the Renton Police Department, I don’t agree at all that it is a crime to exercise free speech (Mr Fuddlesticks consisted of anonymous cartoons that didn’t name any department, but the Renton-WA Police Department is conducting a criminal cyberstalking investigationto find and arrest him). http://www.fuddlesticks.com has the original cartoons.