Stung by two recent incidents of officers posting inflammatory comments, Seattle Chief Kathleen O'Toole has unveiled a new social-media policy.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole unveiled a new social-media policy Friday that bars officers from privately posting comments that harm the department’s ability to serve the public.
“The Seattle Police Department is working tirelessly to rebuild community trust and restore pride in our organization,” O’Toole said in a statement addressing recent controversial posts by officers. “It’s unfortunate that behavior on social media by a few has contributed to the erosion of our collective efforts.”
Under rules that go into effect March 1, employees may express themselves as private citizens on social media sites as long as they don’t:
— Make, share, or comment in support of any posting that includes harassment, threats of violence, or similar inappropriate conduct.
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— Make, share, or comment in support of any posting that ridicules, maligns, disparages, expresses bias, negative connotations, or disrespect toward any race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other protected class of individuals.
— Make, share, or comment in support of any posting that suggests that department personnel are engaged in behavior reasonably considered to be unlawful or reckless toward public safety.
— Otherwise violate any law or department policy.
The policy also states that employees are responsible for the content of their social-media accounts and shall make reasonable efforts to monitor their accounts so that postings made by others on their accounts conform to the new policy.
The policy reflects the department’s efforts to balance free speech while not allowing officers’ posts to negatively impact the department’s image. It also comes just after O’Toole placed two officers on paid leave after inflammatory comments appeared under their names on Facebook and Twitter.
“I am particularly disappointed by these incidents because they undermine community trust, the reputation of the SPD and the outstanding work of many professional, hardworking officers,” O’Toole said in an earlier email to The Times. “I will continue to take decisive action against this type of behavior. I expect all SPD members to demonstrate professionalism, common sense and good judgment. “