I touched briefly on social media in the June update. I think that it is important to reiterate the importance of social media, and to go over some do’s and dont's.
Again, a lot of you seem to operate under the assumption that you have the freedom to say whatever you wish on social media. Let me be crystal clear in this: you cannot. You are a LE representative of the State of Wisconsin, 24/7.
The below rules were written by Will Aitchison: a nationally recognized public safety labor lawyer with more than three decades of experience. I have added to them in a small way, but the largest portion by far is from Attorney Aitchison. I have the same high regard and trust in Will that I do our attorney, Chris MacGillis.
Your 1st Amendment rights are limited.
A series of supreme court cases have made it nearly impossible for public safety employees to win free speech lawsuits. Less than 1% of these litigations are won by the employee. There are no constitutional protections for posts made on social media.
Be particularly careful with memes - just because you see a meme online doesn’t mean you should post it, or even show it to someone.
Many LE termination cases deal with memes. If you repost it, you own it.
Nothing you post online is private.
Anybody who sees what you post can forward or take a screen shot.
Ask yourself a simple question before you post anything online: What will management think if they receive a complaint? If the answer is “not good” or “Hello, Garrity Warning”, then don’t post it.
If you are posting online, be positive. Don’t be critical of anyone or anyone’s ideas. “Oh, what a cute kitten” or “look at the perfect presentation of my maple glazed donut” seem safe. I don’t think dog lovers or cake fans will be take offense over your choice in pets or your diet.
Stay away from LE issues. Seriously. Stay away from LE issues.
If you have the slightest doubt about whether you should post something, try sleeping on it. But if you’ve reached that level of doubt, I’m going to guess you probably shouldn’t post it.
If you feel compelled to post something dubious, have a trusted, respected, and even-keeled friend read it. If they say, “dude, I wouldn’t”, then delete it.
Who are your friends? If you have 400 Facebook friends or 400 followers on Insta or Snap, who is really seeing what you are posting?
If you can’t trust these people with your credit card number, why would you trust them with your thoughts on hot button issues? It sure would be a bummer if your “friend” BrewCrew08 sent a screen shot of a group Snap to Governor Evers and you got fired.
Can someone figure out that you are a LEO based on your posts, past and present? It doesn’t matter that you are doing your best to be fair and impartial. There are many people in this world who dislike you just because you wear a badge. They judge you based on the actions of other officers across the country, and in the media. With that mind, I would urge all of you to not put that target on your back. None of us want people combing through our online presence, looking for something objectionable. You don’t want to be baited by a troll, who’s only goal is to get you to say something you shouldn’t say. Do not broadcast that you are a member of the State Patrol.
Your credibility can be called into question based on what you post online.
Brady V. Maryland. The Brady list. Did you like a post or comment by someone who holds any type of bias? WhizzBAng13 may have had a profound and illuminating comment on the world that you think is spot on and you liked it. But after you like it, you come to find out that WhizzBAng13 is a member of an extremist group. Now you are associated with them, and your credibility could be challenged.
Think about your job, your family, and your safety.
We all have thoughts and feelings about issues. If you feel compelled to comment on them publicly, get a different job. Simple as that. Will some of these terminated employees get their jobs back? Yes, but very few. I would not want to be one of the terminated employees that must fight to get their job back. We don’t want our careers sacrificed while the world figures out where the line is.
The Division has a comprehensive P&P written on this topic. It is 5-13. I’m sure all of you have read it numerous times and this is old news to you. With the recent current events, I would encourage you to re-read this policy anyway. I agree with the Division on this policy. This would be a horrible way to end your career. Many of our brothers and sisters across the country have lost and continue to lose their jobs over their online postings. Please, don’t be like them.
If you would like to listen to the podcast from Attorney Aitchison go to www.LRIS.com.