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SWAT Sniper Entitled To Jury Trial In Facebook Case

You know a court’s opinion will be anything but run-of-the-mill when it begins: “Social media has allowed Americans to connect with friends in far-flung places and to share their opinions on topics both mundane and momentous. But social media can also tempt people to impulsively make inflammatory comments that they later regret. And even worse for them, employers often react by firing or punishing them for their ill-advised remarks….

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Fire Department Social Media Policy Could Be ‘Overbroad’

AJ O’Laughlin and Crystal Little are firefighters with the Palm Beach County Fire and Rescue Department in Florida. On February 6, 2019, O’Laughlin made Facebook posts on an invite-only Facebook page he maintained while campaigning for the presidency of Local 2928 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The posts concerned alleged attempted misuse of a Union Time Pool (UTP) in November and December of 2018 by the union’s…

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Houston District Fire Chief Loses Social Media Case

Steven Dunbar, a District Chief for the Houston Fire Department (HFD), made a post in a private social media group for HFD firefighters in July 2019. Discussing a transfer opportunity HFD had posted the month before, he wrote: “If you are thinking about putting in for a spot in District 64 on C-shift you better have your sh** together. Wanna play games like previously-assigned members? You will be miserable…promise.”…

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Federal Court Upholds Facebook Discipline

Ariel Lindsay has been a Cook County, Illinois deputy sheriff since2004, and was assigned to the Court Services Unit in the Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. From July 6, 2016, through July 8, 2016, Lindsay made several posts to her Facebook account. Those posts referenced the July 2016 shooting of police officers in Dallas, Texas, and the public sentiment towards law enforcement officers. When she made her posts, Lindsay…

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EMS Captain’s Facebook Post May Be Constitutionally Protected

Jamie Marquardt was a captain with City of Cleveland’s Department of Emergency Medical Services. Marquardt had a “private” Facebook page which did not identify him as a City employee. A little more than a year after a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a post appeared on Marquardt’s Facebook page: “Let me be the first on record to have the balls to say Tamir Rice should…

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Firefighter’s ‘Clueless Idiots’ Comment Not Protected By First Amendment

Larry Moreau, Jr., was a captain with the St. Landry Fire Protection District No. 3 in Louisiana. In May 2017, Moreau was accused of refusing to participate in a fire training exercise. At a pre-disciplinary hearing before the District’s Board, Moreau explained that he did not participate because of an on-the-job injury that he failed to report. The Board voted to issue Moreau a formal letter of reprimand, but…

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First Lawsuit Against Plain View Project Is Dismissed

In the summer of 2016, a team of attorneys in Philadelphia learned that numerous local police officers had posted content on Facebook that appeared to endorse violence, racism and bigotry. In some of these posts, officers commented that apprehended suspects – often black men – “should be dead” or “should have more lumps on his head.” In other Facebook conversations, officers advocated shooting looters on sight and using cars…

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Officer’s Firing For Facebook Posts Upheld

Anthony Venable, who had been an officer with the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Police Department (MNPD) since 2007, engaged in a Facebook conversation regarding the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota. At the time, Venable was off-duty and the shooting had happened just the day before. During the course of the conversation, Venable posted a number of comments, including: “Yeah, I would have done 5,” in response to…

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Corrections Officer’s Threats Earn Court Sanctions

Paula Emerson is a correctional officer on leave from the Cook County Department of Corrections in Illinois. Emerson worked at what is known as “Division 9,” a County-run detention unit that houses maximum-security inmates. Emerson had several duties, including monitoring the inmates’ activities and accompanying them to meals and other events. She also cleaned cells, common areas, and restroom facilities on occasion. Emerson’s tenure at the division was tumultuous….

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Conduct Unbecoming Rule Applies To Off-Duty Social Media Comment

Benjamin Zucker is a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). On March 31, 2014, Mark Cronin, who was a Los Angeles Police Protective League director, posted a link to an article from the Daily News on his Facebook profile. The article was about Police Officer Victoria Debellis’s lawsuit, and was entitled “LAPD Officer Says She Was Harassed Because of Gender, Religion, Suing City of Los Angeles.” On…

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Court Upholds Termination for Captain’s Trayvon Martin Facebook Post

Michael Snipes worked as a law enforcement captain with the Beach Safety and Ocean Rescue Department of Volusia County, Florida. Shortly before the events culminating in Snipe’s termination occurred, the Beach Patrol was involved in a public scandal involving adult employees and underage females which significantly, and negatively, affected its reputation in the community. Although Snipes was not involved in that scandal, he was aware of its impact on…

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Facebook Posts Cost Battalion Chief His Job

Kevin Buker was a battalion chief with the Howard County, Maryland Department of Fire and Rescue Services. In 2011, the Department developed a social media policy, in part in response to a racially-tinged Facebook post from a volunteer firefighter. The Policy prohibits employees “from posting or publishing statements, opinions or information that might reasonably be interpreted as discriminatory, harassing, defamatory, racially or ethnically derogatory, or sexually violent when such…

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Racial Facebook Post Not Constitutionally Protected

Adam Meadors was a police officer for the Meridian, Mississippi Police Department. Meadors posted to his public Facebook page a photo depicting two chimpanzees laughing with the following caption: “Earlier today, the mayor and the chief of police had a meeting.” He commented on the photo, saying: “Something will probably be said, but I couldn’t resist.” After a few minutes, however, he removed the photo. Meadors was on duty…

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Social Networking Policy Violates Free Speech Rights

Herbert Liverman and Vance Richards were veteran police officers for the City of Petersburg, Virginia. In April 2013, the Police Chief issued a general order revising the Department’s social networking policy. The preface to the revised policy prohibited in sweeping terms the dissemination of any information “that would tend to discredit or reflect unfavorably upon the Department or any other City of Petersburg Department or its employees.” The central…

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Off-Duty Social Media Policy Mandatory For Bargaining

The Newark Police Superior Officers’ Association represents sergeants, lieutenants and captains in the Newark, New Jersey Police Department. In May 2015, the Department issued a new social media policy. The policy, which the Department described as containing “sensible guidelines,” regulated on- and off-duty social media use. The policy cautioned that “negative references to official duties and responsibilities can be perceived as detrimental toward the Newark Police Department. Offensive, derogatory…

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Split Decision On Firefighter Facebook Terminations

Kevin Buker, a Battalion Chief in the Emergency Services Bureau of Howard County, Maryland Department of Fire and Rescue Services, maintained a private Facebook account. Buker’s Facebook friends included employees of the Department and other public safety agencies, as well students from an EMT class that he taught. Buker set his Facebook privacy settings such that only his “friends” – and not the general public on Facebook – could…

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Sergeant Loses Job Over Facebook ‘Rant’

Susan Graziosi was a sergeant for the Greenville, Mississippi Police Department with over 25 years of service. In 2012, several officers expressed to the Police Chief a desire to attend the funeral of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty in Pearl, Mississippi. Despite the City Council’s decision to disallow the use of patrol cars for personal use under the “take-home” program due to budget…

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NLRB Finds Employee’s Facebook ‘Like’ and Comment Protected By Labor Law

Though the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does not cover public safety employees working for state and local governmental employers, the decisions of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have a significant influence on how state labor boards and commissions interpret state bargaining laws. For that reason, the NLRB’s latest foray into the world of social media is of interest. The NLRB’s decision, occurring in a case known as…

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