Policing Matters Podcast: Social media and cops' First Amendment rights

Jim and Doug discuss some of the pitfalls of posting your opinions to the Internet


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You have the right to free speech. But being a cop is not a right — it is a privilege. That privilege can be taken away from you in the event that you conduct yourself in any way deemed to reflect poorly on the department. This is particularly true of incendiary statements made on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Cops are held to a higher standard than other government employees and speech on social media is included in that higher standard. As Supreme Court Justice Holmes said way back in 1892, “The petitioner may have a Constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no Constitutional right to be a policeman.” However, the Court has also recently ruled in offices’ favor, saying that some agency policies contain unconstitutionally overbroad prior restraint on protected speech. Jim and Doug discuss some of the pitfalls of posting your opinions to the Internet, as well as some of the nuances of coming up with a solid policy that’s beneficial to all parties.

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