Police departments are scrambling to develop rules on what officers can and cannot do online, says the New York Times “This is something that all the police chiefs around the country, if you're not dealing with it, you better deal with it,” said Chief Mark Marshall of Smithfield, Va., president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which has its own model policy.
Most policies try to balance a police department's interests against First Amendment protections for officers. Many include prohibitions against posting statements that could discredit or reflect badly on a department, that illustrate reckless behavior or that disparage people based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. Posting crime scene photos or other evidence from criminal cases online is generally prohibited. Albuquerque's policy prohibits officers from identifying themselves as police employees or posting photos of departmental insignia — badges, uniforms, cruisers — without permission. Pueblo, Co., bans officers from gossiping online with outsiders about department affairs.