Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Free speech rights - cops, too?

Today I was reading the Woodstock City Code, looking for police officer residency requirements, and I came across some very interesting wording that seems to fly in the face of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Where do you find it? Go to
www.woodstockil.gov/; then click on
City Code
Title 1 - Administration
Chapter 7: Municipal Department
Article G. Police Dept.

Wander down through the maze and read Section 1.7G.5: Regulations for sworn officers

Any officer of the Woodstock Police Department should carefully read this Section and, especially, Paragraph D. OK, no problem with prohibiting false official reports or false statements. That's a good prohibition.

But what about gossip? What is "gossip"? Casual remarks? They had better not be about officers or civilian employees of the Department.

But wait. You really have to take this paragraph apart and carefully examine it. An officer is prohibited from making any remark in regard to or about any sworn officer or civilian employee that might bring disrepute or ridicule to that person or to the Department.

All right, let's say, for example, that officers disagree with a policy, position or procedure of the Woodstock Police Department. For example, about being so tightly muzzled. How can they discuss it and express their feelings, opinions or beliefs, if others (supervisory or command personnel or other City officials) might feel that their words bring disrepute or ridicule to the Department.

They can't. And that stifles their First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution!

What they are supposed to do is bring those matters to the Chief. And then? Well, one possibility is that they might be considered not to be "team players." And you don't want not to be a team player. In many departments.

Maybe the union needs to take a position. But, if they complain to the union, aren't they violating the regulations of the Department?

Oh, about the residency thing? Paragraph J. "No sworn officer shall reside outside the corporate limits of McHenry County, Illinois. (Ord. 2059, 8-4-1987)"

1 comment:

Richard W Gorski, M.D. said...

The Woodstock Chief of Police Robert W. Lowen has never been a resident of McHenry County for the entire duration of his job as "Chief". Well, I guess the rules and municipal code only applies to SOME people...if you are connected and know the RIGHT people you can do as you please and are above the law that you took an oath to enforce.