Facebook Privacy and Law Enforcement Officers

With Facebook’s new Graph Search, I can search for people employed by the New Orleans Police Department.  How many results would I get?  Hundreds and hundreds.  I can search for New Orleans Police Department employees who live in Metairie.  I can search for New Orleans Police Department employees who graduated from Brother Martin High School.  There is a lot of information on Facebook.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

There are people who would advocate that law enforcement officers should immediately deactivate their Facebook profile if you have one or continue to stay away if you do not.  While I do not necessarily share the same extreme views, there is merit to this position.  If you enjoy Facebook or want to enjoy Facebook, you should do it.  Keep in mind the expanse of information contained therein.  This advice is really for everyone:  If you have a Facebook account or are thinking about creating one, familiarize yourself with the privacy options.  But know that there is someone who can get to your data even if you employ the most severe privacy settings.

A couple of quick observations:

In the early morning hours of February 23, 2013, Police Officer John Passaro of the New

New Orleans Police Department

New Orleans Police Department (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Orleans Police Department was shot in the line of duty.  At 8:13 p.m. on February 23, 2013 a story appeared on NOLA.COM titled “Shooting of NOPD Officer Reminds Local Law Enforcement of Dangers They Face Daily.”  The title of the article is certainly a true statement.  The final six paragraphs of the article came directly from Officer Passaro’s Facebook page.  Fortunately, the reporter was not looking to blast Officer Passaro and Officer Passaro’s Facebook page was not full of statements which could be taken out of context or used to embarrass him or his family.  I am sure you all know someone who would not be as lucky if their Facebook page was published in the newspaper.

In Virginia, six employees of the Hampton Sheriff’s Office were fired for supporting the incumbent Sheriff’s opponent.  One of those employees was fired because he clicked Like on the candidate’s Facebook page.  In Graph Search, I can search for New Orleans Police Department employees who like Bobby Jindal.  This case (Bland v. Roberts) is currently on appeal in Virginia, but the district court held that clicking like was insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.

In Steubenville, Ohio, several high school football players were accused of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party pictures and videos were uploaded to Facebook.  These pictures were deleted shortly after they were posted.  Football is very big in Ohio and there were allegations of a cover up because some of the alleged perpetrators were star football players.  In response to this cover up, members of the hacker group Anonymous hacked into various social media accounts and were successful in retrieving the previously deleted pictures and videos which they turned over to the national media.

In California, amidst a fight over public records, members of Anonymous posted the names and addresses of six Long Beach police officers along with names and ages of family members.

Take the time to review your security and privacy settings in Facebook.  For example, I would recommend activating Login Approvals and Login Notifications.  Login Approvals can be found in Account Settings under Security.  Login Approval requires you to enter a code which is texted to you each time you log in to Facebook on a different computer.  It keeps track of the computers you authorize so you only have to enter the code once.  Of course you can also remove devices or computers from the list of authorized devices later if you want.  Login Notifications will notify you if someone logs in to your Facebook account.  On the same page, you can check Active Sessions which will tell you everywhere your Facebook account is logged in.  From there, you can close sessions which you may not want to continue or that you did not authorize in the first place.

Remember not to put too much personal information on Facebook.  Your birthday is just as valuable to some as your social security number.  Also, you may be a huge fan of the 2nd Amendment, but clicking like on all those NRA pages or reposting all of those gun rights pictures secretly sponsored by the NRA is likely to make you look like a gun nut if you are involved in a shooting.  Familiarize yourself with all of the settings that restrict (or grant) access to the things that you post.  There is a link to Privacy Shortcuts on the menu bar between the Home link and the settings button.

There is a lot of information on this topic on the Internet.  Take some time and do some reading.  For example, this article on Lifehacker provides some good information.  It may pay off later.

Please keep Officer Passaro in your prayers.20120929-165929.jpg

Signs of a DI-1

20121202-133353.jpgGenerally, officers are not notified by the NOPD that there is an active internal investigation.  Most of the time, officers find out that they are involved in an internal investigation when they receive a letter from Civil Service about an extension hearing or they receive a Notice to Render Statement.

The Extension Hearing

The Louisiana Police Officer’s Bill of Rights (LSA 40:2531) requires that administrative investigations be completed within 60 days.  The Department has the option of requesting an extension of up to an additional 60 days from the Civil Service Commission.  NOPD investigators routinely request the extension in almost every case.  Once the investigator requests the extension Civil Service generates a letter to the officer notifying them of the upcoming hearing.

The letter from Civil Service informs the officer of the PIB Control number, the date and time of the hearing, the identity of the hearing officer, and the location of the hearing.  Receipt of this letter is often a surprise to officers.  The letter also informs the officer of the right to have counsel and that the hearing will not be continued.

If you receive one of these letters, you should contact your FOP attorney, if you have not already done so.  If you have already contacted your FOP attorney regarding the investigation, you should still contact your attorney and advise him of the upcoming hearing date.  Your FOP attorney can appear on your behalf at this hearing.

An officer is not required to appear at an extension hearing.  If the officer does not appear and does not have an attorney appear on his behalf, the extension will simply be granted.  The officer also has the option of having his FOP attorney appear on his behalf.  Of course, an officer can attend the extension hearing, if he is so inclined.

What happens at an extension hearing?  The only issue under consideration at an extension hearing is whether or not the investigator has shown “good cause” for the extension.  The facts of the investigation or the propriety of the officer’s actions are not an issue under consideration at an extension hearing.  Generally, the investigator is the only person who testifies.  The officer or his attorney can ask some limited questions relative to the need for the extension or make a statement with regard to the need for an extension.  Again, any questions or statements are relative to the need for an extension.  It would not be relevant to ask the investigator about the statement he took from the complainant or a witness.

Once the investigator has testified, the hearing officer makes a recommendation to the Civil Service Commission as to whether or not the extension should be granted.  The officer usually receives another letter in the mail form Civil Service which informs the officer that the hearing officer’s recommendation is to be presented to the Civil Service Commission for ratification at their next regular meeting.  Generally, there is no testimony at this meeting relative to extension requests  The Civil Service Commission merely considers the recommendation of the hearing officer and then ratifies it as its own.  Again, an officer who receives such a letter should notify their FOP attorney so that the attorney can appear on his behalf.

The Notice to Render Statement

Sometimes, an officer learns of an open DI-1 when they receive a Notice to Render Statement from the investigator.  Sometimes this form is delivered by email or through the officer’s admin officer.

The Notice to Render Statement form contains several important pieces of information.  At the top of the document, the form lists the investigator’s identity as well as the charges being investigated.  The form constitutes a written order to appear at a specific location on a specific date at a specific time to render a statement.  The location, date, and time can also be found on this form.

If you receive one of these forms, you should contact your FOP attorney if you have not already done so.  If possible, you should forward a copy of the Notice to Render Statement form to your FOP attorney.  By law, you have up to 30 days to secure representation.  However, it is important to make contact with your FOP attorney as quickly as possible.  What you do not want is for the date to render a statement to come and go without making contact with the investigator.  If the statement date is inconvenient for one reason or another (AWP, furlough, etc.), it is usually possible to reschedule.

Your FOP attorney will discuss the actual statement with you in greater detail with your specific case in mind.  The form also lists numerous other things that you can be ordered to do.  For example, you can be ordered to take a CVSA, take a urinalysis, or stand up in a physical lineup.  These things rarely happen.  99 times out of 100, all you would be required to do is render a verbal statement.

You can contact me directly at 504-905-8280 or DAL@LIVLAW.COM.

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