After Troubling Seattle Police Social Media Posts, Chief Imposes Curbs


Balancing free speech against public trust, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole issued a sweeping new social-media policy that bars officers from posting comments that reflect negatively on the department and its ability to serve the community, reports the Seattle Times. “The Seattle Police Department is working tirelessly to rebuild community trust and restore pride in our organization,” O'Toole said, addressing inflammatory posts attributed to two officers. “It's unfortunate that behavior on social media by a few has contributed to the erosion of our collective efforts.” The issue reached a flashpoint over troubling Facebook posts under the name of officer Cynthia Whitlatch, who referred to “paranoia” among blacks after August's unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Officer Sam Byrd, who on Twitter described social justice as racist and Mexico as a third-world “cesspool.”

Under rules effective March 1, department employees may express themselves as private citizens on social-media sites, but can't “make, share, or comment in support” of postings that contain harassment, threats of violence or similar conduct, language 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, or wording that suggests that department employees are engaged in behavior “reasonably considered to be unlawful or reckless toward public safety.”

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