JACKSONVILLE, FL – One day after the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office issued a policy on its employees posting to social media websites, the agency reversed the policy.
General Order No. 76 was circulated to JSO employees last week, shortly after Channel 4 broadcast some comments officers posted to the agency’s Facebook page expressing displeasure over cuts in pay the city negotiated with the Fraternal Order of Police.
Despite having Sheriff John Rutherford’s signature on the document, he said he didn’t approve it.
“That order is being recalled because it didn’t go through the proper processes,” Rutherford said. “It didn’t clear the hurdle of the undersheriff or myself.”
When a JSO spokeswoman was asked Tuesday if she could explain how the order received the sheriff’s signature without his knowledge, the agency provided a one-word answer: “No.”
Not only did the order not go through proper channels, an attorney says the policy might have violated the National Labor Relations Act.
“The Sheriff’s Office, as a public employer, has a right to restrict speech of employees to some degree, but some of these provisions go too far,” said legal analyst Ed Birk.
Birk says the vast majority of the policy as written is too broad to be enforceable.
Rutherford said the policy is being rewritten and will be thoroughly reviewed before it is issued.
“When we do, we are going to make sure officer conduct, which has been in our general order forever, also applies to officer conduct through these social media sites,” Rutherford said.
Channel 4 has requested copies of all correspondence about JSO’s social media policy and any drafts of the document and will report on any developments on the subject.