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  1. #1
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    Two officers lose jobs

    From Tri City Herald WA 18 Jan 2009
    by Paula Horton, Tri City Herald

    http://www.tri-cityherald.com/kennew...ry/449207.html

    Fired for internet activity found contrary to department misson and policies.

    Be careful out there.



    Failure to recognize that online social media blur the line between personal and professional lives has cost two police officers a job.
    Washington State Patrol Cadet Matt Blahut was forced to resign from the state patrol on Jan. 9 after officials received a complaint about content on his Facebook page.
    And Kennewick police Officer Matthew Winckler was fired from the force while he was at the police academy because of comments he posted on his blog.
    "Everybody's got their right to privacy, but when there's an intermixing of images of the state patrol and state patrol cars ... with less than professional-type comments, images of drinking or conversations surrounding things that might not be moral, it doesn't present a good image for the state patrol," said state patrol Capt. Jeff DeVere.
    Blahut, a Prosser High School graduate, had been temporarily based in Ellensburg while he completed the last part of his academy requirements -- eight weeks of on-the-job training with a field training trooper.
    He appeared excited to be a trooper, displaying photos of himself on his Facebook page dressed in uniform and posing next to his cruiser. But he also had pictures of himself drinking out of a pitcher of beer and waiting for a ride after a night of partying.
    Those actions weren't illegal, but a Kennewick father who saw his daughter looking at Blahut's Facebook page thought they were inappropriate.
    "My concerns are not just for me, but for the youth ... who are logging onto that page," the father told the Herald. "They're seeing a guy who's been hired by the state patrol that's supposed to have pretty high standards and pretty high ethics.
    "He's saying he's drunk. It shows him in uniform. ... Law enforcement's supposed to set an example for these kids," the father said.
    Washington State Patrol officials took the complaint seriously, investigated Blahut and within days gave him the option to resign or be fired.
    Though Blahut's Facebook page was only accessible by people who were on his "friends" list, state patrol officials took swift action after seeing the vulgar language and photos of some "questionable activity" combined with pictures of Blahut's professional life, DeVere said.
    "He put the patrol in a bad light," DeVere said. "When you have a trooper that effectively can take authority over somebody and erect power, you need to have confidence that their behavior in their public and private lives is beyond approach."
    Judgment and integrity is a big part of a trooper's job, DeVere said.
    "If we see this kind of judgment early on in somebody's career, what's to come?" he said. "Putting these types of pictures (online) ... does not show good judgment. If you look at some of the activities being depicted, it's clear this guy shouldn't be a trooper at all."
    The state patrol tells new hires to be careful about what they post online and repeatedly warns what constitutes unacceptable behavior.
    "We go through a lengthy hiring process and training ... and really invest a lot of time in these folks," DeVere said. "It's really disappointing we still had this incident occur."
    The state patrol is not alone in turning to the Internet to get a better look at a candidate, or in having to fire someone because of information posted on the Internet.
    Officials at the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and the Pasco Police Department say checking websites such as MySpace and Facebook is just another part of the extensive background checks that are done, including checking financial history and criminal records.
    Neither agency has had any issues with employees posting inappropriate things online.
    Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, however, fired Winckler in November because of comments he made while blogging about his experiences at the academy.
    "This particular recruit had made some poor decisions and as a result of that did bring discredit to the department," Hohenberg said. "... It's always disappointing if you lose somebody early in the process ... but we really need people out there with good people skills and common sense."
    Winckler, 26, was on the Kennewick payroll for just three months after deciding to leave his job as a software developer and fulfill a dream of becoming a police officer.
    On his blog, he talked about the rigorous testing he had to go through to get hired, posted pictures of himself after getting sprayed with pepper spray in the face, and even showed training videos that he watched in class.
    But he lost his job because of some "disparaging comments" made "about the maturity of some of my anonymous classmates," Winckler wrote in a post on Nov. 3, two days after he was fired.
    Winckler said he realized his comments were "simply unprofessional and shouldn't have been written in the first place, no matter how true they might have been."
    "... In all, I don't see any particular injustice in what has happened," Winckler wrote. "To the contrary, I see strict justice. I made a mistake ... and I received my just due for that mistake."
    Both Blahut and Winckler have unlisted phone numbers and could not be reached for comment.
    Law enforcement officers are trained on rules of conduct and that it's important to not bring discredit to their agency because it can affect public trust.
    They can do anything a private citizen can do, but they are expected to be role models and there is a higher expectation of them because of the authority they have, Hohenberg said.
    "One of the key things law enforcement agencies look for in a candidate is their judgment. If somebody's doing something that brings disrespect to the profession, it also tells you you're dealing with a candidate where there's maturity issues or poor judgment issues," Hohenberg said.
    "When they're making a decision on power of arrest and use of force, up to and including deadly force, you want people demonstrating the best judgment," he said.
    That doesn't mean officers aren't entitled to private lives or should be barred from having MySpace or Facebook pages, but they do have to remember they're being scrutinized by their supervisors, criminals they arrest and the community they're supposed to keep safe.
    "Anybody who has taken the oath of office and understands the privilege it is to serve the citizens of the community also understands the responsibility that goes with the oath of office," Hohenberg said.
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  2. #2
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    If either of them were off probation, there is zero chance they could be successfully fired in Washington.
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    Let's break this down, because I don't think this is a matter of being careful with internet activities, so much as it is a matter of using common sense.

    One was an academy cadet for the Washington State Patrol who was forced to resign from the state patrol on Jan. 9 after officials received a complaint about content on his Facebook page. Blahut displayed photos of himself on his Facebook page dressed in uniform and posing next to his cruiser. But he also had pictures of himself drinking out of a pitcher of beer and waiting for a ride after a night of partying. "He's saying he's drunk. It shows him in uniform. What did he expect? Sounds like he is WAY too immature to be an LEO.

    The other was Kennewick police Officer Matthew Winckler, who was fired from the force while he was at the police academy because of comments he posted about his experiences at the police academy on his public blog. Winckler talked about the rigorous testing he had to go through to get hired, posted pictures of himself after getting sprayed with pepper spray in the face, and even showed training videos that he watched in class.
    But he lost his job because of some "disparaging comments" made "about the maturity of some of my anonymous classmates," Winckler wrote in a post on Nov. 3, two days after he was fired.

    It is clear to me that they both exercised poor judgement. Officers are entitled to private lives and shouldn't be barred from having MySpace or Facebook pages, but they do have to remember they're being scrutinized by their supervisors, and the community they serve (to include criminals).

    If you're going to have a MySpace or Facebook page, or a blog, keep the freggin' cop shit off of it, or at a minimum do not post pictures of yourself in uniform, and make your profile private! And if you can't do that, then don't post anything controversial or anything that shouldn't be made known to the general public. It sucks, but it's a reality of this job. Let's face it, cops don't have the rights that regular citizens do.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by maclean View Post
    If either of them were off probation, there is zero chance they could be successfully fired in Washington.
    Yeah that seems pretty thin.

    Frankly the drunk guy waiting for a ride ought to be a role model for many of the cops I know.
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    It does show the amount of data and the picture you can paint of a person by what they present on-line.

    And yes, since both were on probation, both got canned. Obviously one failed to heed the words given at the academy on day one: you got a beef? Take it up with the recruit in question or speak to your Tac.

    But agencies are woefully behind the technology curve in understanding this (new to them) medium and how it relates to young people today.

  6. #6
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    I agree Term this was more of immaturity and poor judgment than doing something illegal. We are and always will be held to a higher standard, as we should be. Maybe a few years from now they can try again with a different agency, once they grow up a bit and learn.
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  7. #7
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    In today's world, posting pictures in an inappropriate manner or making dumb comments on facebook or myspace is little different from doing or saying something in public. I really have no sympathy for either.

    The agency being behind in technology or how young people think is irrelevant. Being young doesn't have to be synomous with stupid. If you wouldn't say it or do it in public, leave it off your webpage.
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    Morris is offline Chief Wheaties Pisser
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    The agency being behind in technology or how young people think is irrelevant. Being young doesn't have to be synomous with stupid. If you wouldn't say it or do it in public, leave it off your webpage.
    Hardly irrelevant. It wasn't until just a few years ago that agencies were actually checking social group networks like MySpace as part of the background checks. Despite corporate America doing it for much longer. Indeed, in your days, a young recruit officer mouthing off at the local watering hole and making dispariging comments about other officers is akin to today's inappropriate comments on a computer page. Does it paint and speak loudly about the officer or just some silly bravado on-line?

    In both of the alleged cases, it was likely poor taste and rather befitting of the new generation of cops. However, how are these action any worse than some retired on duty slug bopping the witress at Denny's on or off duty? One is probationary, the other is protected and in some cop cultures, celebrated.

    Neither one of these lads will work LE in Washington state again. The community is too small and their misdeeds will follow them for years. And yet, I'd take the young cadet trooper's enthusiasm over the fat retired on duty slug coasting to a 20 year mark.

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    My first day on the job a wise old deputy took me off to one side and told me,"Just remember this.....when you are wearing a badge, someone is ALWAYS watching". Of course he meant that in a criminal context but it is still good advice for FNG's in a number of ways.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Morris View Post
    ...how are these action any worse than some retired on duty slug bopping the witress at Denny's on or off duty?
    A former Lieutenant of mine was moonlighting at the Waffle House with me. He told one of the waitresses to come over to our table. She came over, looking like nasty, white trash, and he leaned over, and whispered to her the following:

    "I'm going to break you down like a shotgun and fuck you in the ass."


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    Quote Originally Posted by Terminator View Post
    A former Lieutenant of mine was moonlighting at the Waffle House with me. He told one of the waitresses to come over to our table. She came over, looking like nasty, white trash, and he leaned over, and whispered to her the following:

    "I'm going to break you down like a shotgun and fuck you in the ass."


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    Quote Originally Posted by Morris View Post
    Hardly irrelevant. It wasn't until just a few years ago that agencies were actually checking social group networks like MySpace as part of the background checks. Despite corporate America doing it for much longer. Indeed, in your days, a young recruit officer mouthing off at the local watering hole and making dispariging comments about other officers is akin to today's inappropriate comments on a computer page. Does it paint and speak loudly about the officer or just some silly bravado on-line?
    Talking in front of a few friends hardly compares with posting something on the Internet. A better comparison would be telling the local paper what you think of the officers on your dept. Besides, it's stupid to badmouth other officers in front of anyone who isn't a very close friend. I don't know about your dept., but on mine you shoot your mouth off about another cop, you better be prepared to back it up. Even in a dept of about 1K, word gets around. When I ever had a problem with someone, I said it to their face. I sure as hell wouldn't have posted it somewhere.

    The other incident would equivalent to having a national magazine post your picture drunk, swilling beer in one frame of a picture and you sitting in your police car in the next. That would have gotten you fired just as quick. It still discredits the dept. Any moron should realize that, no matter where the pictures go. It paints the officer has not being able to think consequences and actions through. Of course something like that would give the chief heartburn.

    Just because you're young doesn't mean you shouldn't know better. It just shows poor judgment. And I'd prefer the 20 yr vet who knows what the hell he's doing over the kid who can't make decent life decisions. You can teach some people to be a cop, but you can't teach common sense to anybody and these two didn't have any. In my experience people like this will continue to make bad decisions their whole career. If I had fired them, that would be the reason, not just the single incident. Who knows what dumbass things are they going to after they get their probation in? That's why we put them on probation initially.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terminator View Post
    A former Lieutenant of mine was moonlighting at the Waffle House with me. He told one of the waitresses to come over to our table. She came over, looking like nasty, white trash, and he leaned over, and whispered to her the following:

    "I'm going to break you down like a shotgun and fuck you in the ass."

    What happened?

    Did she let him or did she complain on him?

    Was the complaint what he said or because his unit was too small?

    And most importantly, did you have sloppy seconds?

    Pleasing nobody, one person at a time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Terminator View Post
    A former Lieutenant of mine was moonlighting at the Waffle House with me. He told one of the waitresses to come over to our table. She came over, looking like nasty, white trash, and he leaned over, and whispered to her the following:

    "I'm going to break you down like a shotgun and fuck you in the ass."

    He undoubtedly knew her well enough to get away with it. He would have to have shouted it throughout the resturant to compare with these two.....

    Although I did have a Sgt tell a young female officer that he'd like to turn her upside down and eat her like a popcycle..... A couple of months later he as a patrolman working a district near me......
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    Well as usual I agree with most of the above.

    If they'd been off of probation, they never could have been fired. At least not in MN.

    But at the same point if they want to be in the position of a law enforcement officer they will not only be held to a higher standard, but they will be representing their department in everything they do. You never know who is watching you, and you will never know who "knows" you. I work in the city I grew up in (about 35,000 population), and CONSTANTLY have people approaching me, on and off duty, who know my name, where I work, and where I live, only because I'm a police officer in town.

    You never know who is watching you, so you always need to consider your actions and whether or not they will reflect poorly on your department. And if you're not mature enough to consider that, you're not mature enough to be a cop.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xiphos View Post
    What happened?

    Did she let him or did she complain on him?

    Was the complaint what he said or because his unit was too small?

    And most importantly, did you have sloppy seconds?

    She did not complain, though to no one's surprise he ended up getting fired. He always bragged about how the first thing he was going to do when he retired was smoke a joint. I guess he's got the chance to now. And no, no sloppy seconds. And this whore wasn't even desperate enough to touch my former Lieutenant. He was in his late 40's and looked like Big Bird.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    He undoubtedly knew her well enough to get away with it. He would have to have shouted it throughout the resturant to compare with these two.....

    Nope, he didn't know her well. That's how he rolled. Patting girls asses on duty, hitting on girls on traffic stops and asking them on dates to get out of tickets, I could go on and on. Looooooser.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Terminator View Post
    He was in his late 40's and looked like Big Bird.
    Who knows, maybe some women are into that!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenna
    Who knows, maybe some women are into that!

    One woman was....his wife.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmur5074 View Post
    Well as usual I agree with most of the above.

    If they'd been off of probation, they never could have been fired. At least not in MN.
    Same here. But they would had a short, unpaid vacation. Everyone knows you do nothing to discredit the dept in public. We don't suspend rookies, they just go away.

    I got my butt chewed by the chief personally when I told a reporter one night when I was exhausted that I would be happy to just have drug labs leave the city and go into the county. He skipped three people in the chain of command and had me standing tall in his office while he explained to me that I didn't make policy for the dept.....
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