Collier deputies told to stay away from making comments online, or else

Collier County sheriff’s deputies are being told to zip their lips — or at least quiet their keyboards — when it comes to commenting on public Internet messaging boards and posting agency-related information on their personal Web pages.

The Sheriff’s Office unveiled its new non-agency Web site policy in early June. Around the same time, Cpl. Paul Boliek, a 20-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, was referred to Sheriff Kevin Rambosk for discipline after officials say he posted a derogatory comment on a public Web site and identified himself as an agency member.

Chief Greg Smith said the two are not related.

“It had nothing to do with the Paul Boliek situation,” Smith said of the new policy. “This was completely independent of that, and foreran that by a good three months.”

The policy, which was issued on June 5, states that agency members have a right, as private citizens, to have personal Web sites. However, the agency prohibits employees from posting “references to or about” the Sheriff’s Office, agency staff or agency information obtained in a member’s official capacity without permission from Rambosk or “his designee.”

Sheriff’s Office employees are barred from posting images of the agency’s uniforms, badges, patches or vehicles, and are not allowed to identify themselves online as Sheriff’s Office members.

Smith said the policy applies to social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube, public messaging sites like the popular LEOAffairs.com, and news sites like naplesnews.com. The Sheriff’s Office’s public information staff currently comments on naplesnews.com under the moniker “CCSO_Star.”

Sheriff’s Office attorney Mike Hedberg said the policy does not abridge free speech. Previous policies already addressed issues like writing letters to newspapers. The only difference now is the online format, Hedberg said.

“What’s protected speech is speech of a private citizen on public concern,” Hedberg said. “It is not an absolute right if it is a speech of a member that interferes with the efficient operation of the agency. It can be regulated.”

After being sent a copy of the new policy, Brandon Hensler, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said it appeared to be “vague and overbroad.”

“Furthermore, officers need advance notice of precisely what is expected of them, and this policy is not clear,” Hensler said. “Will officers be prohibited from posting their employer information on their Facebook page? What about family photos? The answer will depend on how the policy is interpreted, communicated to officers and staff, and most importantly — how it is implemented — to know whether it is a constitutional overstep.”

In Boliek’s case, Smith said Boliek, 41, made a “specific comment, which was derogatory, and he identified himself in an official manner.” Smith said he wasn’t sure on which site Boliek made the comment.

When asked about commenting on sites like LEOAffairs.com, Smith said, “For me, personally, I wouldn’t do it.” But he said the agency doesn’t have time to police sites like that and attempt to track down anonymous bloggers.

In an egregious case, violators could be terminated, Smith said.

“It is against the Sheriff’s policy as an agency representative and member to blog about anything without having the proper clearance,” Smith said. “If they identify themselves on that site or any other site, they would be held responsible for their content. ... If they didn’t sign their name and there’s no way to identify them, then there’s not much we can do about that.”

Regarding the new policy, one blogger on LEOAffairs.com, identified only as “Curious George,” said deputies will continue posting on public messaging boards if agency leaders fail to address problems.

“This site is a way to vent, like it or not, so if you do not want your dirty little secrets to be posted on a public site then CORRECT the problem when it is brought to your attention!” Curious George wrote. “This is how you keep stuff off of this board. Deputies will continue to post about problems that affect their job and (are) not corrected by staff; they will just do it under an assumed name instead of their real name.”

Chris Jordan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police organization representing Collier deputies, called the new policy appropriate. He described LEOAffairs.com as a “comic book-type Web page with bloggers hiding behind a keyboard to humiliate fellow brothers and sisters.”

“We understand that social networking is without doubt the way of the future, but we also believe there are limitations about what we can say and cannot say in public forums,” Jordan said.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office’s “Internet Usage Policy” does not address personal Web sites, social networking sites or public message board comments. Naples police spokesman Michael Herman said his department does not have a specific policy regarding personal Web sites, but does have policies concerning the dissemination of confidential information.

“We do not have a policy concerning individuals voicing their own opinions,” Herman said. “If someone were to do something that were to put the department in a bad light or bring discredit to the department, instances like that could be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”

© 2009 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 45

ZhuZhu writes:

I hope this memorandum does not apply to the janitorial staff. If, so I will miss elunuestro's dour commentaries.

BobWiley writes:

Who cares?

naplesnewsreader writes:

no comment

TruthHurtz writes:

It's about time.

FDNYEngine298 writes:

It seems that CCSO's upper echelon must still want to live by the "SEE" no evil , "HEAR" no evil and "SPEAK" no evil and now they want to add "BLOG" no evil ... What a joke this department is. If this is all Sheriff has to worry about then we elected the wrong man ... STOP worrying about who or what was bogged about you ... and worry more about the problems and issues at hand and do your DAM JOB !

greathornedlizard writes:

They can still do as at least one high official does..have his wife do the talking!

lizdarcy writes:

Unbelievable.
When did the Sheriff start worrying about his deputies blogging? Wow.
Maybe his loss of support when the deputies learned what kind of leader they got?
This guy is a loser!!!

USDfender writes:

Has anyone questioned this website http://www.gangtraining.com/maininstr... where high ranking members are using their positions, uniforms and agency videos to advance their private business?

UR_Oblivious writes:

I only see 3-4 posts by an acutal registered account, the rest are guests... So I have 3 CCSO deputies views on the "hot topic" out of what, 600? Thanks for wasting my time. This leoaffaires seems to be a spot for the disgruntled to meet.

Ryan, slow news day?

swfl_ff writes:

This message was removed by CCSO staff.

Looks to me like Rambosk must be worried about being able to keep his employees in line. I guess now we know why facteller and a couple of others have not been posting here lately.

napleska7 writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

needachange writes:

Great ACLU test case!

cupcake writes:

When you outlaw blogs, only criminals will have blogs.

straighttalker writes:

Guess he's going to leave public comment up to the crack PIO folks. He didn't seem to mind his thugs blogging during the campaign and attacking anyone who didn't support him. I suppose the "ban" will be lifted for the next election when he needs them again.

matt#206381 writes:

lol cupcake! good one.

mothernature writes:

Maybe Rambo should have read this part of LEOaffairs.com BEFORE he let Jim Bloom and others do this idiotic violation of free speech.
http://www.leoaffairs.com/media/leo_i...

And is Rambo going to get his own Web site off the Internet? There are many, many photos of him, Hunter and other CCSO deputies in uniform on it. Oh well, I guess what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander.
http://www.ramboskforsheriff.com/

mothernature writes:

And I guess Jake Williams couldn't have done his Web site in support of Rambo and against IRS/state laws under this new policy could you Jake? You all remember that free campaign Web site he had, colliercitizens4truth.org where he would only post good about Rambo and bad about everyone else.

mothernature writes:

And I guess I haven't gotten my latest 119 request because the PIO people have been too busy blogging on NDN.
I'll quit for now....

believeit writes:

Well, well, well.

I don't think even Sheriff Don Hunter (hater of freedoms) would have done this. Who would have thought "Mr. I Want An Open Dialogue with the Community and the Deputies" Kevin Rambosk would stoop to this stupidity.

diamondgrl writes:

Rambosk can't take the heat. His agency is turning into a joke. He should have cleaned house on day 1. What's the matter people getting close to exposing certain people for things they have done? Guess he can't take the truth. It sounds like his traffic unit is a mess and Rambosk doesn't have what it takes to clean it up.Hey Paul from what I hear you have dirt on a certain Lt. why not give it up. I would bet this new policy is because of what the deputy did. There have been other things employees did that ticked off the agency & within a matter of days a new policy was issued. Hope this one goes to court & Rambosk loses.

insightfulguy writes:

I think most businesses should and would take action if they found out that one of their employees was making negative comments about the company.

Ryan - What do you think would happen if you went to a journalism message board and made a post that said, "My name is Ryan Mills, and I want everyone to know that Phil Lewis and Chris Doyle are idiots." ????

diamondgrl writes:

#10 those guys on that website will not get in trouble & after reading your post will have a letter today stating they can use whatever they want. They are part of the good ole boys you know. If you only knew what some of those deputies have done.

myrealname writes:

Sounds like somebody is running scared.

dwyerj1 writes:

LEO's have rights, too. It seems that this policy is a violation of deputies' rights to freedom of speech. I frequently disagree with what some have to say, but I certainly think they have a right to say it.

Interactive news such as that now available to us with the online NDN allows for people to share their opinions on just about everything. Deputies are people. Deputies have opinions. Deputies should express their opinions without fear of oppression from their "bosses" or the public.

CCSO is not a business nor a corporation. Its employees are American citizens endowed with the right of free speech. Let's enforce _that_ law.

MONKABOY writes:

hey what the heck folks! blogging = termination but forging medicaid documents 5 days suspension. what a joke! more info for plan "b"

jayhawksfan writes:

Here's one way to ensure you're a one term sheriff. Good job!

tried_n_true writes:

NoSecrets, facteller, 676. American citizens without the right to free speech.

BlueTonguedVole (Inactive) writes:

Cupcake: once again you have the post of the day!

Because employers DO read blogs and bulletin boards, it is wise to take care when making comments which can reflect back on your employer no matter if this entity is a private company or public agency. Why? D'oh, it can come back to bite you. Unfair, you say? Yes, it is...however, the comments can undermine even a fair, balanced good working situation when fueled by disgruntled folks who will never be happy where they work.

That being said, it is a shame to curtail venting. Perhaps if there was some honest helpful way of allowing personnel to express concerns without retaliation, this would be a moot issue.

When I worked for an agency in the past, there was a way to vent. Managers DID encourage dialogue without retribution. It worked well until a new upper level individual took over who was an autocratic micromanager. Many who could retire then, did.

Unfortunately, this particular location (Collier County), seems prone to like to promote feuds. Micromanagers in the local government agencies thrive.

I have met a number of CCSO employees/deputies who seem genuinely content in their jobs. Gallows humor is helpful in stressful jobs. I know, I was content in my former career and inside humor and minor gripes were just part of our world. No one was waiting to take these comments out of context and make a huge deal of it. I have also met a few CCSO folks who don't seem as happy, but they have never said anything overt. These individuals conveyed a tension, however. Perhaps they are not happy with the way this agency functions and may be the people who vent the most.

As to freedom of speech issues, well, I am not an ACLU attorney (LOL), but when someone works as sworn deputy, I thought they were virtually on duty 24/7. I may be wrong. It this a good thing? I think they need a way to get gripes off their chests! Deputies and others in some categories of such stressful professions are allowed to retire earlier than other public employees for good reason.

CCSO, find some way to allow your folks to vent in a healthy supportive fashion and few will resort to posting "embarrassing" opinions online.
Ignore those who do!!!

chincieone writes:

comment #27 It would be the truth!

firstvoiceofreason writes:

There are plenty of CCSO deputies posted in uniform and/or in front of their patrol cars on single sites, with the deputy mentioning and using his/her position with the department in their profile. If this is now against county policy, they have a big job removing or updating all these lame profiles. There are even some of deputies in questionable photos in compromising positions involving handcuffs, etc. where the CC badge is clearly visible. Kinda tacky and lame...

believeit writes:

If the deputy has to wait for Rambosk to make a decision, he'll grow old. Look for an answer to the discipline issue in about October.

Kevin, Don is SOOOOOOOOOOO enjoying this. Thanks for the entertainment.

swfl_ff writes:

BTV your thoughts on this being an issue of micro management is on target. That is a real common problem with our local leaders along with the ongoing problem of thinking too highly of themselves.

It appears that Rambosk is getting nervous about what people are saying about him for whatever reason. He must not have much self confidence in himself to handle the situation.

As I warned before the election Rambosk looks great on paper but he is not and effective manager. He cannot make a decision to save his life. I think this new order is one of the few times he actually made an hard stance on any issue. He really does not have what it take to run an agency as big and complex as CCSO.

Unfortunately there was no other candidate with the qualifications to match Rambosk's so he was easily elected. With any amount of luck another qualified candidate will step up in three years to run for Sheriff.

johndoedeputy writes:

Way to go Rambosk & boys what a way to get morale up. It's already at an all time low.

ireadu writes:

If you as an agency chief or sheriff don't want to hear concerns and opinions from your members, that is one of the traits of a totalitarian system.
Soon members will be encouraged to turn each other in for blogging. Most mature and effective leadership is able to absorb and acknowledge dissatisfaction and differing opinions. Are all of the deputies and members wrong all of the time?

bmwdriver writes:

Stay tuned for the next episode of "Get Me Out Of Here, I Don't Want To Be Sheriff" starring Kevin Rambosk.

lizzyb writes:

Must have learned all this from Dennis Thompson. Someone at one of the initial "Take Over, i.e., I'm in Charge Now so Listen Up or Else" meetings said he told principals to "keep your teachers in line", in regards to writing to the newspaper, etc.

When you have to put your thumb down hard to make people follow you, you've already lost the game. Why don't these people get it?

believeit writes:

Hmmmm. What I don't understand is who is counseling him on doing this? Was it Sherif Hunter? Was it the 7 PIOs? Was it Bloom and Williams? Was it something he came up with alone? Nah. He has no backbone so how could he stand on this alone.

meister writes:

Deps have rights too. Where's the A C L U ?

RaginCajunn writes:

8-10 disgruntled deputies go on that site (and here) and post the latest gossip, talk trash about their brothers and sisters. Why? Childish resentment that a. They backed a losing candidate in the last election and b. Their hopes for going Union were smashed by a landslide popular vote among the troops.

believeit writes:

Why didn't the Sheriff talk to the reporter? Is he hiding AGAIN?

greathornedlizard writes:

I noticed that the Sheriff referenced "libelous"
statements made on the blogs in his recent NDN Editorial Response regarding the investigation into the Rivas accident on Pine Ridge Rd.

believeit writes:

So what?
What's your point?
Do you know what you need to prove libel? It's just his candy-butt way to try to explain his way out of being a poor leader.

slowisfast writes:

Diamondgrl, or should I say Blake Martin's wife. You have a right to be angry because your husband squandered a promising career by constantly whining and encouraging his deputies to avoid work.

mothernature writes:

Hey slow, you're wrong about diamondgrl, try again.
Believeit, the sheriff may have been too busy helping quash a subpeona to make Ryan fess up to his involvement in the campaign. But I bet Ryan finally has to come out sometime. I guess when the special prosecutor and Hatch people subpeona him, he'll talk.

skiffbug writes:

If the CCSO is so upset about their officers making comments on line, then maybe Rambosk needs to take the reigns and set a guideline for his deputies. Yes, I am for free speech, and maybe they need to voice opinions about what is going on! They Sheriff does not need to impose censorship on his people. They are trying to do this in Iran, and I believe this was done during the Nazi Era during World War II, against the people of Germany.

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