Baltimore Fire Fleet Can No Longer Tweet

A new social media policy restricting what Baltimore firefighters are allowed to post online has drawn the ire of union representatives and First Amendment activists.

by / November 7, 2012

Firefighters in Baltimore now share something in common with professional athletes. According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, their department recently instituted a new rule governing what firefighters are allowed to post on social media sites. Like NFL and NBA players, Baltimore Fire Department personnel can now be reprimanded for any statement made online about their jobs that doesn't show “good judgment” and "courtesy and respect to the public and to fellow employees." 

Union representatives feel the policy is too vague and could breach First Amendment rights. "I think the policy is clearly suspect," Attorney Bradley Shear said. "It's over-broad, it's retroactive, and I think they need to go back to the drawing board."

In addition to the new social media policy, individual fire units are no longer permitted to maintain independent websites detailing their work in the community. Firefighters also cannot photograph or record images of department property without permission.

The new policy came after Fire Chief James S. Clack observed that some firefighters were "crossing the line" by posting incorrect or sensitive information about calls they were on, sometimes while first responders were still on the scene. But some firefighters said they believe the new policy was a reaction to criticism of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other city officials.