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Portland PD Proposes Limits on Officers’ Social Media Use

After several Portland Police Officers posted "I AM DARREN WILSON" pictures on their Facebook accounts, the chief ordered them to take them down, and has now implemented a new policy on what is acceptable to post.

by Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore. / January 6, 2016
Former Portland Police Chief, Mike Reese flickr/Ray Terrill
Former Portland Police Chief, Mike Reeseflickr/Ray Terrill

(TNS) -- The Portland Police Bureau for the first time has drafted a policy that attempts to regulate its members' use of social media, both on duty and off.

The proposed directive comes more than a year after former Chief Mike Reese ordered several officers to take down posts on their personal Facebook pages showing a Portland police badge covered with the words "I AM DARREN WILSON.'' Reese called the posts "inflammatory,'' and not representative of the city police force.

The postings came in advance of an anticipated grand jury ruling in the Aug. 9, 2014, police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The deadly confrontation between Officer Wilson, who is white, and Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager, set off days of protests and unrest in the St. Louis suburb.

The draft also comes after a police officer complained on Twitter that he'd be stuck late at work "to babysit these fools,'' referring to a planned Black Lives Matter-Not Black Friday march at Lloyd Center in Northeast Portland. The officer was removed from the street and an internal investigation got underway in late November.

The proposal specifically identifies what officers cannot post on their personal social media pages.

"While members have a right to personal expression, members' communications and sharing of information on social media cannot be detrimental to the effective and efficient operations of the Bureau, discredit the Bureau or bring the Bureau into disrepute,'' it says.

Officers, for example, cannot post any images or likeness of the Police Bureau badge, patches, marked vehicles or equipment without the departmental approval. They can, however, post photos of officers in uniforms at formal ceremonies.

The proposal also prohibits them from posting images from crime or accident scenes. They also can't post, share or support any posting on social media that is harassing, discriminatory; includes threats of violence; violates the law; or disparages or expresses bias toward any race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or other protected class.

Staffers also would be restricted from using a Police Bureau or city email address to register for a personal social media account.

Portland police are seeking public input on proposed Directive 311.40. Comments can be left on the bureau's website.

Another proposed policy will make it clear that citizens are allowed to record or videotape officers on duty.

"All persons, not only official representatives of press/media organizations, have clear rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to observe and record police members performing official duties in public places, so long as that person's actions do not interfere with the member's duties or the safety of members or others,'' proposed Directive 635.20 reads.

"Members shall not prohibit or intentionally interfere with such lawful observations or recordings. Any recordings that are deemed to be evidence of a crime or relevant to an investigation shall only be collected or seized in accordance with this directive and state and federal law.''

©2016 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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