Forfeited By The Police; Right To Free Speech On Social Media


 This article's content has been updated since it's original publication date of October 17, 2014.

When you're a police officer, you are held to a higher standard. You were explained that in the police academy, and you gladly accepted it. You were happy to merely have a law enforcement job, right?

If you think it's unfair, then you should probably find another line of work. If you believe you should be allowed to say whatever you want, then you should really find an outlet other than social media to voice your opinion. In fact, if you don't realize it by now, several police officers throughout this country have either been disciplined or terminated because of negative posts they posted on social media.

Marlin, Texas 

In August of 2014, a police officer in Marlin, Texas, decided to exercise his free expression and what he believed was his right to freedom of speech, and made questionable comments on a post on his private Facebook. His first volley wasn't what I would really get all worked up over. Framed in the right way, he might have actually been doing a bit of a public service message.

However, he continued on with comments about his disdain of shopping for groceries on the first day of the month, because of people using food stamps, having tattoos, wearing "bling," and being lazy. The officer wrote, "I promise, if I ever snap and go on a killing spree, it will be in a supermarket on the first."

Because of his comments, the officer was fired. You can read about the story in the Waco Tribune-Herald.

You're Known As A Police Officer, Whether On Duty Or Not 

Whenever you're introduced to someone new by a friend or family member, I guarantee somewhere within five minutes of the introduction, it was mentioned, "he's a cop," or "she's a police officer." This usually happens as the person leans into the ear of the new person and says it in a low voice as if to keep it from the gangsters who are hiding under the table from hearing. The point is this; whether you are on duty or off duty, everyone that knows you will also know you are a law enforcement officer. They know you've been entrusted with the ultimate responsibility on this planet, which is the ability to take a person's life if need be in the performance of your duties. With this, comes the expectation of sound judgment and maturity.

You lost your First Amendment Rights on the day you raised your right hand and took the oath of office. 

How To Censor Yourself 

There are a couple of things you can do for yourself to keep out of trouble with your department and your community. These are merely suggestions, some of which will be completely ignored due to personal preference or opinions.

  • If it's not something positive or encouraging, don't post it on social media. I wish the rest of the world would practice this same suggestion on everything posted, but that ain't gonna happen, right?
  • If you are going to post a comment on social media, pretend the news media is sitting on the other side of the computer waiting for you to push "send." Is what you've typed going to look good?
  • Would your Mom or Dad be impressed with your comments if they showed them to their friends?

No One's Perfect 

I know I've said some pretty choice words when dealing with resistive or combative suspects. I can also assure you I wouldn't be happy with myself if someone was recording me when making those arrests, as it would look and sound pretty unprofessional.

As a profession, we can continue to strive to get better every day, so we avoid topics like this article.