- Corrections officer forced to reveal Facebook password; ACLU claims privacy invaded
- Captain investigated for refusing to order officers’ attendance at mosque event
- New Haven Aldermen vote to censure police union president
- Police union post-retirement health care fund to dissolve
- Public Safety Director Receives Second ‘No Confidence’ Vote
- Facebook posts cost firefighter his job
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Corrections officer forced to reveal Facebook password;
ACLU claims privacy invaded
From The Baltimore Sun, February 23
A corrections officer from Baltimore says he was required to provide his Facebook password when he reapplied for his former job, and had to watch as his personal page and its postings were perused by an investigator.
Robert Collins, 29, complained to the American Civil Liberties Union that his privacy had been invaded, and now the state Division of Correction is backing off, saying it will suspend such demands for 45 days during a review of the matter.
In an interview Wednesday morning, Collins said his immediate reaction to the investigator’s request “was one of disgust and shock,” but he was told such demands were “part of the hiring process.” Collins, who ultimately was reinstated as a corrections officer — a job from which he had taken a four-month leave of absence last year after his mother died — said he had “no choice” but to agree to the investigator’s demand.
“I felt like if I didn’t comply completely with the process I wouldn’t get my job back, that I would no longer be considered for reinstatement to my position,” said Collins, who has two children. “I felt I was being treated like a person who had committed a crime, and that my whole life was being scrutinized under a microscope.”
In a letter to the ACLU’s Baltimore office on Tuesday, Gary D. Maynard, secretary of the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, said the practice of requesting social media passwords was being suspended for 45 days “so that it can be studied further.”
“The department’s efforts to explore an applicant’s behavior on social media networks stems not from a desire to invade personal privacy, but rather from a legitimate and serious concern with the infiltration of gangs into our prisons,” Maynard wrote in his letter to Sara N. Love, president of the ACLU’s Maryland chapter. “I am sure you would agree that permitting applicants who engage in illegal activities, or have gang affiliations, to be employed as correctional officers compromises the safety of all inmates and employees within our prison walls.”
While welcoming the agency’s suspension of the practice, Deborah Jeon, the ACLU’s legal director for Maryland, said it had taken Maynard’s office almost four weeks to respond to Collins’ complaint.
“A policy that requires employees and job applicants to give the government log-ins and passwords constitutes an invasion of privacy both for the employee and for his or her friends who are also having their privacy compromised by this,” said Jeon, who noted that Collins had set up his Facebook page with the most restrictive privacy settings available.
The practice of demanding such passwords, Jeon said, “basically overrides all the privacy protections that the user has erected.”
Collins joined the DOC in July 2007 and was a supply officer at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup before taking a leave in April last year. When he reapplied in July, he said, he was offended when the investigator — “a complete stranger” — had insisted on looking at his “personal posts, pictures, messages and things of that nature.” Collins noted that he was informed later that he had “passed all the background checks” and would be given a date on which to begin work anew.
“It’s how I make my living, it’s how I support my children,” he said. “I want to be a contributing member of society.”
His complaint to the ACLU stemmed from his desire to “compel the state to do what was right,” Collins said. “I believe they’re going to act with integrity.”
Tulsa police captain temporarily reassigned
From The Tulsa World, February 23
TULSA, OK – Capt. Paul Fields was temporarily transferred Monday afternoon from the Riverside Division to another patrol shift at the Mingo Valley Division.
The Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is scheduled to be held at the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa on March 4. Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the society scheduled the event to show its appreciation for the officers’ response to a threat against them.
“This is an opportunity that I saw for us. They extended a hand out to us to thank us and show appreciation,” Jordan said, adding that if a church of any denomination or group did the same thing, officers would respond.
He considered the event to be a community-outreach opportunity that was deliberately arranged so that officers wouldn’t have to participate in any religious discussion or observance that would create any discomfort.
“This community-outreach event is a function of community policing, which is every bit as much a part of this department’s mission as call response,” Jordan said. “This event is an opportunity to meet the public we serve, exchange information and build trust.”
Citing confidentiality regarding personnel matters, Jordan said he could not comment further on the internal investigation.
In an e-mail sent by Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police Board of Directors Chairman Clay Ballenger to FOP members Monday, Ballenger said Fields’ refusal “was based on the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, departmental policy, and past practices of the Tulsa Police Department.”
Records show that Fields, 41, was hired by the department in 1995.
Memos obtained by the Tulsa World indicate that Fields believes a directive by the department to send officers to the event is an unlawful order. Each of the department’s three patrol divisions was assigned to schedule at least six officers and three supervisors from the three different shifts to attend the event.
Fields stated that he sought the advice of legal counsel and believes that “forcing me to enter a Mosque when it is not directly related to a police call for service is a violation of my Civil Rights,” according to a memo to his supervisor dated Feb. 17.
In a Feb. 18 interoffice correspondence, Deputy Chief Daryl Webster told Fields that the event organizers needed to know how many personnel would be attending so that things such as food and tours could be scheduled.
Webster said voluntary participation is desirable, “but should voluntary response not be up to task, assignment would be the next alternative.”
He stated: “There is no distinction between performing our lawful duties in a reactive manner (call response) and doing so in a proactive manner (community outreach).”
A personnel order from Jordan to Fields indicates Fields is under administrative investigation regarding the refusal to follow a direct order.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Jordan said it is not unusual for the department to assign officers to go to community events to get to know members of the community and to share public-safety information. The department has never selected whom it provides services for “based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity or preferences,” he said.
He also said he “would never assign a police officer to participate in a religious service.”
“It is not appropriate,” he said. “I would never violate their rights that way.”
Jordan said he and other members of his command staff plan to attend the event.
The Islamic Society of Tulsa released a statement Tuesday morning saying the event was specifically in response to a recent threat to the Muslim community in Tulsa. Tulsa police worked to arrest the person involved, and the threat ended.
“The Islamic Society of Tulsa stands by its invitation to show appreciation to anyone in law enforcement and their staff for their service and sacrifice to our community,” according to the statement.
Sheryl Siddiqui, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Tulsa, said the mosque has hosted three or four similar events in the past without incident.
“This is a community event,” Siddiqui said. “It’s in that person-to-person exchange that makes us all a bit safer. We get rid of those stereotypes.”
The event is offered to all law enforcement officers and will be open for about six hours with a “casual come-and-go atmosphere,” according to the invitation. The organizers are offering a buffet of American and ethnic foods, as well as short and long tours of the mosque.
Siddiqui said the Islamic Society has no expectations of the officers who attend.
“They are guests,” she said. “Whatever they like to do, this is for them. If they just want food, they are welcome to it.”
Siddiqui also expressed regret that any controversy is forming around the event.
New Haven Aldermen vote to censure police union president
From WTNH.com, February 23
NEW HAVEN, CT – New Haven, Conn. (WTNH) – New Haven’s Board of Aldermen says the head of the police union should be punished for public comments he made when police officers were laid off.
The night before 16 police officers were laid off, police union president Sgt. Louis Cavaliere told officers “people of New Haven are going to have to start arming themselves, defending themselves and do whatever they can to protect their property and protect themselves, because with the mayor out there laying cops off, we will not be able to respond and do the job the way we are supposed to be.
Cavaliere also said “It’s gonna be fear city. New Haven is ‘Fear City.’ I advise the public to stay out of New Haven.”
His comments were recorded on video by News 8.
In the following week there has been a protest march on City Hall in which police officers blocked off Church Street, and an alleged sick-out.
The New Haven Board of Alderman weighed in Tuesday night, calling Cavaliere’s comments “reckless and inappropriate.” The aldermen voted to censure the union president for his remarks.
A few aldermen said they’ve had calls from residents concerned about it.
Cavaliere is not the only one being targeted in the wake of the layoffs. Mayor John DeStefano said he will go after police officers who blocked Church Street for their protest and anyone who called out sick without good reason.
Mayor DeStefano said even with the layoffs, New Haven has nearly the identical number of officers it has had each year for the past decade.
Sgt. Cavaliere has not spoken publicly since last week, but he reportedly told the New Haven Register that this is a freedom of speech issue and he says the alderman have no authority to discipline him.
It’s not clear what way he would be punished.
Police union post-retirement health care fund to dissolve
From The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, February 20
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – A group of Corpus Christi police officers who thought their retirement health care needs were taken care of face rising premiums and little help paying for them.
The Corpus Christi Police Department’s union will divide up what’s left of a trust fund that was supposed to pay for their health insurance costs indefinitely.
The Internal Revenue Service will have to sign off on how the union plans to distribute the $1.5 million left in the trust. Officers who recently retired and haven’t received any of the benefits will receive the most, and officers who have been retired and receiving trust benefits for years will get little to none.
Several recently retired officers didn’t return phone calls requesting comment about the fund. Although they are still eligible to participate in the city’s health care plan, they are responsible for paying for the premiums at $429 a month.
The Corpus Christi Police Officers Association health trust fund, established in 1989, was meant to bridge the gap between officers’ retirements and their eligibility for Medicare.
The trust collected about $60 a month from active-duty officers who decided to participate and used it to pay the premiums on the city health insurance for retirees.
As medical costs grew, the trust fund couldn’t keep up with its obligations, said union President Mike Staff, who also is one of the fund’s controllers.
In 2009, the fund collected $324,920 from 349 officers who participated in the fund, but retiree health costs were $590,915, Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez said.
In 2010, with 321 employees participating, the city collected $202,490 and the retiree health premium costs were $598,807, he said.
The city contributed a lump sum to the fund each year, but that didn’t offset the problem. Last year, the city paid $156,000 to the trust, but it stopped payments this year in preparation for the trust’s dissolution, Martinez said.
The union formed the trust because of the sometimes short careers of police officers, who often start on the force in their 20s and retire in their 40s. Those who retire in the 40s and 50s face a long gap between retirement and eligibility for government health care, generally at age 65.
The system was flawed from the beginning, Staff said.
When the union established the fund, it allowed officers who were facing retirement to draw immediately from its benefits.
An officer who paid into the fund for only a few months could draw benefits for years because there wasn’t a required vesting period.
The fund also lost some money during the economic downturn, even though Staff said it was invested conservatively.
In July 2009, the trust started curtailing benefits to retirees. In December, the benefits ended completely.
“We have made those decisions based on professional advice,” said Jim Nash, an attorney for the union. “The future (of the fund) looks frankly harrowing.”
If the police union kept the fund, they’d need to agree to invest more money into it each month, something officers didn’t support.
Staff said he’s unsure when the IRS will approve the payout method.
“It became evident that we needed to get out of the trust business,” he said.
Public Safety Director Receives Second ‘No Confidence’ Vote
From The Albuquerque Journal, February 18
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The Albuquerque police union has voted “no confidence” in Public Safety Director Darren White, making it the second such vote in the lawman’s career.
The daylong voting resulted in 84 percent of votes against White, union president Joey Sigala said. More than half of the union’s approximate 1,100 members voted, the biggest turnout in a long time, Sigala said.
White refused to comment on the vote Thursday, though Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry weighed in, saying he still has confidence in White.
Sigala said the vote was held because of general dissatisfaction with White, who gave up his sheriff post in Bernalillo County to be the city’s top public safety official. Sigala said White’s decisions have caused low morale among officers.
“One of the other things we take a lot of issue with is his lack of allowing (Police Chief Ray Schultz) to be the chief,” Sigala said.
Union members decided to hold a no-confidence election at a meeting in January. At the time, the union was at odds with White and city administrators over the revised take-home car policy that mandated officers live within 11 miles of the Big I to take their cruisers home.
The union and the city eventually came to an agreement that will allow all current officers to take their cars home in exchange for three incentives that city officials said will save about $1 million a year.
The no-confidence vote will not have an effect on White’s job.
“We know it’s a symbolic motion and it’s not gonna change Darren’s position,” Sigala said. “I have no doubt that if he chooses to run for office again someone will take advantage of (the vote) as well.” Berry, who appointed White to his spot, stood by him on Thursday.
“In order to balance the budget during these tough economic times, Darren and I have had to make some unpopular decisions in the best interest of taxpayers and to keep our police officers employed. Darren and all of our APD officers win my vote of confidence as well as the community’s when we see an 18 percent drop in property crime,” Berry said in a written statement.
This was the second no-confidence vote for White.
In 1999, the New Mexico State Police Officers Association voted no confidence because they felt White wasn’t doing enough to get State Police needed equipment and cars. White said at the time, the association’s charges against him were “ridiculous.”
Facebook posts cost firefighter his job
From NECN.com, February 24
BOURNE, MA – A Bourne, Massachusetts firefighter is out of a job. He was fired after his bosses viewed a post on Facebook. Can a Facebook posting get you fired? Just ask Bourne, Mass firefighter Richard Doherty who’s alleged griping about a police colleague and other job-related matters blew up into a Facebook five alarm fire, and got him canned.
Doherty’s not commenting , but the union is standing by him.
Gil Taylor, President IAFF Local 1717: “The union believes at this point that Mr. Doherty has been unfairly targeted and that the termination is improper.”
That support comes with a candid acknowledgment about the 17-year department veteran also known for his charitable works.
“He’s recently run a fundraiser to obtain funds to be able to build a ramp for a local handicapped child to gain access to the beach. but he is very vocal. if he doesn’t think something is right, you can’t shut him up. ”
Doherty’s Facebook posting offended some fellow workers who reported them to town officials..
In it, he allegedly railed against the police officer over some incident, angrily carried on about being forced to work on the Fourth of July holiday and made a homosexual slur.
Union representative Gil Taylor says the comments had Facebook restrictions, could not be viewed by the general public and were taken out of context.
Taylor: “He was exercising his First Amendment right to state that he thought he was being treated poorly by these individuals or didn’t like the way they were doing things.”
But town Administrator Thomas Guerino issued a statement Wednesday saying in part — by publicly disparaging and ridiculing the lieutenant and then sergeant (and now police chief), Firefigher Doherty imperiled the link that must bind fire and police personnel. This conduct undermines the ability to serve the public and undercuts public confidence in the town’s ability to provide these services.
All this puts Facebook front and center.
Taylor: “Is it private space, is it public space?”
Doherty and the union are deciding whether to appeal to the Civil Service ( he has already had a hearing and it went against him) or seek arbitration. He may also sue the town.