Friday, September 19, 2014

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The Call Blog: Cops Disciplined For Insensitive Facebook Remarks

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It may not be fair, but unfortunately in the social media world that we live in, we’re ALL constantly judged by what we say on our Facebook or Twitter accounts. It’s a reminder to be mindful that these services are not really private. Public workers like police officers and teachers are looked upon as role models or people in positions of power. If they are found to be saying racist comments in their personal lives, people can perceive them to racist in their professional lives, which could affect their credibility. The saying used to be, ‘Careful what you say in public’; now that standard should apply online.



The conduct of NYPD officers is making headlines again. The department disciplined 17 officers for insensitive comments made on Facebook about revelers at last year’s West Indian American Day Parade. The Facebook page elicited comments from more than 150 people, and referred to “savages” and “animals,” with one person writing, “Let them kill each other.”

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly vowed to conduct an internal affairs investigation, saying that 20 offensive comments “were associated with names that match those of police officers.” Today, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said 17 people had since been disciplined; four of those are officers facing pending departmental trials on charges of “conduct prejudicial to the good order of the Police Department”; six others were hit with command disciplines, a penalty that often results in lost vacation days; the rest received minor punishments.

The associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said it was difficult to evaluate the punishments, but “Like all public employees, police officers have a First Amendment right to speak freely in their personal lives, even if that speech is offensive… What they do not get to do is be racists in their work lives, and the Police Department can and should discipline officers who are guilty of that.”

Do you agree that police officers and other public workers in a position of authority should be able to speak freely on social media outlets, or should they be held to higher standards? Have you or has anyone you know ever been disciplined for comments made on these social media websites? Should comments made in your private life affect your work life?

Respond with your thoughts using the link above.



I believe that when you work as a police officer and or other public worker, you must be held to higher standards. It doesn't matter whether or not your FB page is private or not, there are ways for others to see it. With social media outlets, your past can come back to haunt you and you have to be careful.

Comments made in your private life should not affect your work life, unless those comments are printed and published. Unfortunately, people don't see the social network sites as published, but technically it is.

Jessica
Arden Heights


I personally believe that they should be removed from their positions as police officers. Freedom of speech is one thing. But the underlying issue here is that these are the police officers who patrol the streets where the same people they called animals and savages reside. How can one expect a fair shake from a police officer who has this sort of mindset? How can stop and frisk still be considered benign to the community with these kinds of thoughts flowing through the minds of the officers patrolling the area and enforcing it. I firmly believe in the freedom to express oneself, and in that regard they have every right. I for one prefer they do so, as every racist comment sends up a clear flag to all that they are NOT approaching the people in the communities they patrol fairly, or even with an open mind.

Mariano
Washington Heights.



Should we be punished for comments we make on FB? probably not, but if you are a police officer and carry a weapon, your comments should be scrutinized as it relates to your mental fitness and views towards the general public.

Felix
Bay Ridge



I agree with the ACLU that cops, just like everyone else, have freedom of speech.

However, the remarks quoted diminish the police's claim to be "New York's Finest."

Of course, from the beginning, they never were that. Brutality, invasion of privacy, swat teams knocking down doors to the wrong houses, warrantless searches and seizures, etc. better describe far too large of a percentage who are not so fine.

Joe
Port Richmond



How is it ok for the NYPD to look at twitter, facebook posts, and infiltrate the muslim community while they are exempt from scrutiny by the public for their posts on social media?

Lorraine



Police officers, unlike other government officials and personnel, are technically, "on the job" 24/7, so how they conduct themselves in their off hours and in their private lives reflects on the personal integrity required of them in the performance of their work. This is true for clergy members as well, except that, while clergy must answer to their denominations, their colleagues, and their congregations, police officers answer to the People, and to the laws and government agencies that have endowed them with the extraordinary authority they wield.

Yes, they have a right to free speech, as we all do, but a cop who is a racist in his private life will surely be perceived as one when on duty, and that mindset is antithetical to the qualities required of a public servant in a multiethnic society.

Social media like Facebook make it fairly easy for people to maintain relative anonymity through the use of aliases, multiple usernames, and group pages, and police officers and others wishing to post controversial or offensive comments would do well to hide behind these camouflages in order to protect, not only their own reputations, but the reputations and integrity of their colleagues, the NYPD, and the rule of law they are paid to enforce.

BIG ANDY
Manhattan Beach



They have a right to say what they want on their free time or their own web page. Granted if their bosses want to be hard cases and say they posted it while on duty, then they may have to eat the punishment. No job has a right to punish people for what they say on social media or elsewhere in their free time, unless there is some clause in their work contract. They don't have to like or respect the people they police either, but then the same attitude is going to be given back to them. Good rule of thumb with social media or anything else is don't say anything you wouldn't say to someone's face or you aren't willing to back up. My question is whether Kelly is using this to deflect from the video of police acting a little unprofessional with a City Council Member and staffer during said parade?

RL
The Bronx



I like the fact that what is said by officers of the public trust is being watched on social media. It helps to weed out the bad apples. If they are dumb enough to post it they should be held accountable.

Jimmy
The Bronx



Public employees should be held to a higher standard. If they are posting these offensive comments so freely, you have to wonder about their state of mind on the job. Thought leads to action, so these racist thoughts could lead to racist actions on the job. It's hard enough for me to trust police without these kinds of things happening.

Dwight
Flatbush



NYPD HAS BRAGGED TO THE PUBLIC ABOUT ARRESTS THAT WERE MADE BASED UPON THE COMMENTS OF INDIVIDUALS USING SOCIAL MEDIA SUCH AS "FACEBOOK". SO WHY HAS THE DISCIPLINE OF THESE OFFICERS COME INTO QUESTION - WHEN IT IS THEIR OWN DEPARTMENT WHO USES SOCIAL MEDIA FOR THAT PURPOSE?



Public employees are entitled to a private/personal life and should not be penalized for expressing themselves on social media.

Lyn
Staten Island



I believe social media is very dangerous. Suddenly people can immediately post every fleeting thought online. I challenge you to find someone who hasn't had an offensive thought -- but now such thoughts can be put out there for everyone to see right away.

That said, I believe it is free speech and should be protected. If we discipline everyone who has had an offensive thought, well, we should pretty much discipline everyone.

Sal
Bay Ridge



The opinions are deplorable, but if they are not spoken on behalf of the department they have a right to express them. You can't have freedom of speech only when it's convenient or when it doesn't offend your sensibilities.

And honestly, is anyone truly shocked?

Juan
Sunset Park



Police should be held accountable for their inappropriate comments especially if they are racially charged.

It makes you wonder about their level of professionalism and if they're able to treat people in the line of duty equally.

Emily
Gramercy



Shame on you!! in the future keep your personal opinions to yourselves instead of Facebook where everybody can read it

Carmen
Bay Ridge



If an officer has not identified themselves as NYPD on FB and made the comments, their comments should be protected as free speech from a citizen. However, if they do identify themselves as NYPD their actions may go against internal policies to which state how personnel must conduct themselves on and off duty. To that end there are consequences that must be carried out by the department against he personnel.

DML
Astoria



A wrong move on the part of the NYPD. The 1st Amendment protects unpopular comments. And let's be blunt, the parade in discussion here has a history of shootings and killings. You honestly can't say that about the St. Patrick's or Columbus Day parades.

Nick
Oakwood Beach



The First Amendment isn't needed to protect popular speech. It's needed to protect unpopular speech. I think that anyone should be free to say anything as long as it's not slanderous or threatening to someone else, and as long as it's said as a private citizen and not as a representative of a government agency or private organization.

Mark Drutz
Staten Island



It’s a very simple solution that people today can’t seem to understand: SAY IT, FORGET IT — WRITE IT, REGRET IT!!!

Walter
New Dorp



I think they shouldn't say these things the work in the poblic sector not private.



A person who posts indiscreet comments on Facebook or other social media websites is a person whose judgment must be called into question. Such people do not need to be carrying guns.

Jayne
East Harlem



I believe that a police officer is a role model in or outside of their uniform. As example a police officer is still respected as such if they were killed outside off uniform. They should be the same person in or out of uniform. Their personal life is integrated into everyday life because they will always be look to for help in a situation just like a doctor is looked to for help outside there job. They should have never posted it in the first place.



i'm just curious. What law did the officers break. And did they abide by the facebook rules.
You mean to tell me if ordinary people made these comments, it would be okay.? People are not allowed to talk anymore ?

Jack
West Side



I can only imagine how difficult it is to be a cop. As we run away from a dangerous situation, they run towards it to protect us. They see humanity at its worst, they walk in on suicides, murders, victims of violent crimes and they put their lives on the line to protect us.

Given the dangerous situations they encounter each day for US, their going home safe and sound to their families every night is not as predictable as it is for the rest of the population.

These guys were blowing off some steam and kidding around with each other. They did not throw tear gas cannisters into the crowd, they did not open fire, and they did not write these comments on their patrol cars, or make these comments on their loudspeakers. Their comments were made on their social media accounts, albeit, not a private venue.

We have become a society so hypersensitive and politically correct that even everyday freedom of speech is curtailed. With all the mendacity that goes on every day in government, we seem to tolerate that nonsense easily like idiots - I mean like the intellectually challenged - but our backs go up over this.

Protect the police officers' rights and we protect our own.

Simone
Manhattan



People who work in pubic sector should br carefull of this kind of thing now it mske them seeem that they have hate in there heart fot other groups. It's not a privatized entity.



I dont think they should be disciplined.These police officers were not on duty and therefore have the same free will as any normal person.If we disciplined them, then what are we asking of our police officers? When i heard that a police job was difficult because we are asking them for too much i didn't quite understand until now.However, police officers do have alot of power and we should discipline them but not in this way.

L



I'm a School Secretary in a NYC Department of Ed school. There are MANY comments I'd like to make about certain parents and students but I don't. I do feel that WE ALL should have the right to say what we want on our own Facebook pages when we're OFF DUTY. However, if someone is going to post a comment or pictures that are offensive, they have to be ready to handle the consequences.

Stephanie
Jamaica



the first amendment right is not contingent on media or forum. their opinions were stupid and their willingness to express them so publicly only proves the intellect of those in question. I do not support their ideas but support their right to express them. I also applaud the disciplinary action, and thank these officers for reminding all NYers that the racism people of color feel from the NYPD is not imagined.



Police officers are held to a higher standard they must refrain from demeaning the public by stating hatred comments. Words become action.

For instance: If a police officer is killed the killer become a cop murder and facing higher penalties life in prison, if a police officer is OFFDUTY the killer is still considered a cop killer. The police deparment can't pick and choose.



Posting something online is just the same as walking into an intersection and screaming. If these officers walked to the corner and screamed this, while off duty, they would still be reprimanded.

Frank
Midtown



The police should def be held to a higher standard ., Everyone else is investigated for their online comments for regular jobs..Why should the police be any different . If anything they should be more accountable.

If this is how they feel about minorities im sure they reflect it in their daily activities...



Take facebook and all social networks out of the systems and the city will be safe from harmful people



If you don't respect your fellow New Yorkers, then why on earth do you become a police officer? That is the worst possible job choice for you. Some might say the person that chooses to be a cop and doesn't respect the people they serve is the real savage.



Facebook is a public document.

Knowblestar
Brooklyn



People of poor character, shouldn't take an oath to serve and protect. It's a conflict of interest.



To the person who said Irish & Italians think they're better: I am Irish American and that conclusion you made is biased and ridiculous and based on the same prejudice that you accuse others of having. I don't think I'm better because my grandfather was born in Ireland, I think I'm better because I behave myself and act as a functional and law-abiding member of society. My heritage, my gender, and my race have nothing to do with that. These officers were expressing their frustration with people who do not act this way. They didn't exercise the best judgment as officers of the law, but they're human as well and they see a lot more than we do everyday.

Mallory
Bronx



IF THE NYPD HAD MADE THOSE COMMENTS ON ANY OTHER PARADE, THERE WOULD BE HELL TO PAY. PROBALY A NATIONWIDE ISSUE



What people do not understand is that the West Indian Day Parade is by far the most violent parade that takes place in our entire country. The crowd takes over the streets in mass mobs, music is blaring, police are not aloud to enforce drinking restrictions or drug use because it is simply too dangerous to do so. Gangs come out in there colors, shots are fired all day long, groups walk around with buckets and try to tar and feather the police. House parties spill out into the streets, people drop everything from glass bottles to refrigerators out of windows and off roofs in an attempt to try and crush or injure the officers below.

It is no coincidence the parade is not even aloud to take place on 5th avenue. The shootings and stabbings never even make it into the news. It's disturbing and someone needs to finally draw attention to it



When you are discussing activity in which you participate with and through your employer, you are then speaking on behalf of your employer in a public forum (despite it being on private settings). It doesn't matter if you are commenting after the fact, you are still speaking on behalf of your job whether you think so or not.

I work in the retail industry and think the practice of - no staff or employee are to speak of or discuss work activities on social media if they are not designated to represent the Brand or Company (or Police Department for that matter).

Yes the cops should be disciplined - go through sensitivity training/HR issues, sign a confidentiality agreement in regards to social media. The police department are lucky they are only getting minor disciplinary actions because I'm quite certain most major companies would choose to fire someone who would makes such comments.

If I were to see an industry peer of mine commenting on Facebook about an event that they are or were at with their company, making insensitive comments about guests, I would question their professionalism and contribution to their employer.

Thus why the public would question the professionalism and commitment of the officers who are to serve and protect the community, its not a broadway act where they go on stage and put up a show for the public for that night. They have to be ultra sensitive in the public eye and behind closed doors, because they are held at a higher standards especially when they are there to serve and protect the exact same people they call savages.

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