Sep 5, 2013
12:02 PM
Connecticut Today

Connecticut State Police Have New Policies on Tattoos, Social Media Use

Connecticut State Police Have New Policies on Tattoos, Social Media Use

Seems everyone has a thumb on them these days, even cops.

State police have issued a wide-ranging policy on tattoos and social media, warning staff that “speech, on or off duty, made pursuant to their official duties, is not protected speech and may form the basis for discipline.”

Read the policy.

The department also distributed a “grandfather waiver” for tattoos, branding and body art visible while in uniform, while banning additional tattoos or markings.

The commander of the state police, Col. Danny Stebbins, and the department spokesman, Lt. J. Paul Vance, were asked for comment early Thursday but have not yet responded. Stebbins issued the directives Wednesday.

Referring to the directives as “news of the weird,” a trooper told Connecticut Magazine, “It is a good thing the [social media policy] wasn’t in place when [Stebbins] was in New Orleans.”

Stebbins took heat in March after speaking at a police conference in New Orleans about the massacre last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Legislators complained that they were unable to get information disclosed by Stebbins and other high-ranking officers at various conferences. A public report on the December 2012 mass killing is expected sometime this fall.

The Sept. 4, 2013 directives – obtained by Connecticut Magazine – cite various social media including blogs and social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Reddit, Flickr and Digg.

Troopers and staff members of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection are banned from using social media on duty: “any proof that this has occurred on duty may result in discipline.”

“Personnel are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media and networking sites to the degree that their speech is not detrimental to DESPP, does not impair the work of DESPP, damage the reputation of another, disparage, embarrass or otherwise discredit DESPP, its personnel of any of its units or functions,” the directive states. “ … Personnel that may be identified as employees may have no reasonable expectation of privacy when social networking online … ”

Staff members were also advised that “their activities on social networking web pages and/or media may impact their options for future specialized assignments [e.g., undercover or covret operations]. Existing tattoos need not be removed, but “extremist, indecent, sexist or racist” tattoos are banned.

Stebbins and Vance were asked for the department’s views regarding constitutional issues for troopers, the public and whistleblowers, as well as the impact regarding appearances by staff at conferences in light of news reports about the Newtown massacre details.

Reach Thibault by email at tntcomm82@cs.com. Follow him on Twitter @cooljustice.

Connecticut State Police Have New Policies on Tattoos, Social Media Use

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