Pittsburgh Police Social Media Policy Under Review As Posts Made By Officer Are Investigated

Pittsburgh police are currently reviewing their policy on social networking sites and may amend it after they placed an officer on administrative leave pending an investigation into his social media posts. 

This announcement comes after the Department of Public Safety announced Friday night that it placed a police officer on administrative leave until further notice pending the outcome of an investigation when a citizen filed a complaint on social media posts made by the officer. 

Morningside resident Jen Cieslak said she filed a complaint with the Office of Municipal Investigations (OMI) on Tuesday after coming across Sgt. George Kristoff’s Facebook page. Ms Cieslak said she saw dozens of posts he shared on his account that expressed negative opinions toward Black people and Black Lives Matter supporters as well as sharing posts that were flagged by Facebook as misinformation. 

Ms. Cieslak, 37, shared with the Post-Gazette over a dozen screenshots of posts Sgt. Kristoff allegedly made.

One Facebook post Sgt. Kristoff allegedly shared had a time stamp of Aug. 10 and was a photo of two Black children holding handguns with the caption, “And they wonder why their kids are getting shot.”

Another post pertained to Black Lives Matter protesters, stating, “If you don’t want to get hit by a car, don’t protest in the middle of a highway. If you don’t want to be killed by police, don’t engage in illegal activities. If you’re scared of the coronavirus, stay home. If you don’t love America, leave it. It’s really not that difficult.”

When she clicked on his Facebook page and saw the posts, she said she “was in disbelief” and ended up taking screenshots of as many posts as she could. She then notified Zone 5 Sgt. Stephen Vinansky; Nora Bolla, an assistant to police Chief Scott Schubert; and the OMI. The OMI is in charge of analyzing and investigating citizen complaints of civil and/or criminal misconduct alleged against city employees, including Pittsburgh Police. 

Ms. Cieslak said she noticed Sgt. Kristoff made his Facebook page private the same night she notified police of the posts. She said she never received a response back.

Public safety spokesperson Cara Cruz said in an email that the policy, from 2012, is currently being reviewed and “will be amended as appropriate.”

The three-page policy briefly spells out its general conduct guidelines, stating “the on and off-duty conduct of its members may reflect on the [Bureau of Police’s] reputation.” 

Under the general guidelines section of the policy, it states “Employees are prohibited from posting commentary, content, or images on a social networking site that are defamatory, pornographic, proprietary, harassing, or libelous.”

“Members should use common sense in all communications, particularly on a website or social networking site which is accessible to anyone,” the policy stated. Violation of the policy could potentially be grounds for discipline, the document stated.

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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