Recently I was contacted by a law enforcement officer seeking help. His concern was that his administration insists on taking and posting photos of him and fellow officers to use on their department’s social media sites without first asking permission from the employees. Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more common as police agencies across the country attempt to connect with the community via social media. Many officers embrace this change in culture and willingly offer their photos for this purpose and look for opportunities to participate. Understandably though, some officers see this as an invasion to their privacy and a potential safety risk to themselves and their family.
I realize that not all of my readers work in law enforcement, but many of you do. If this scenario applies to you, and you find yourself in this situation here are a couple options to keep in mind.
Option 1 – A polite request to your colleagues and/or administration may be enough to gain their acceptance that you don’t want photos of you posted online. When your desire is presented in a professional manner, citing privacy and safety concerns, I believe that most people would be accepting to that request by their co-worker.
In the case of this particular officer, his polite request was unfortunately met with an unwillingness to help and borderline harassment in his opinion.
Option 2 – The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) may be able to help you.
For more information: HERE
Many States have a version of the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights incorporated into their Government Codes. Most, also have a provision that covers the “use of photographs”. Your mileage may vary, but if you need something to cite in a formal complaint to your agency, LEOBR regulations may do the trick. In the case of the L.E.O. I spoke with, he used this language and the appropriate State Gov Code to encourage his agency to exclude him from their social media accounts. He launched a formal complaint through the chain of command which included his Police Officer’s Association. His efforts were successful. See the wording below which will vary from State to State.
Use of photograph; penalties:
(a) No public safety officer shall be required as a condition of employment by his or her employing public safety department or other public agency to consent to the use of his or her photograph or identity as a public safety officer on the Internet for any purpose if that officer reasonably believes that the disclosure may result in a threat, harassment, intimidation, or harm to that officer or his or her family.
(b) Based upon his or her reasonable belief that the disclosure of his or her photograph or identity as a public safety officer on the Internet as described in subdivision (a) may result in a threat, harassment, intimidation, or harm, the officer may notify the department or other public agency to cease and desist from that disclosure. After the notification to cease and desist, the officer, a district attorney, or a United States Attorney may seek an injunction prohibiting any official or unofficial use by the department or other public agency on the Internet of his or her photograph or identity as a public safety officer. The court may impose a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500) per day commencing two working days after the date of receipt of the notification to cease and desist.
Again, a polite request to your colleagues and superiors should be all that is necessary. Launching a formal complaint certainly would be a last resort type of action. I offer this success story as an example of outside of the box thinking. Since successfully helping this particular officer with this issue and posting about it in the privacy & security forums, I have received two other similar success stories from L.E.Os who have used similar tactics.