Getting Social – How Law Enforcement Can (And Should) Be Using Social Media

By: Curtis M. Graham, Esq.

There is no question that social networking websites have changed the way we live and connect. These sites have also presented opportunities and challenges for law enforcement departments around the country. From community outreach to criminal investigations, it is clear that law enforcement officials have a valuable new tool at their disposal. However, it is critical that they understand how to properly use these sites and avoid common pitfalls.

A recent survey found that Facebook is the most fruitful social network for law enforcement, followed by YouTube. The various social media outlets can be searched when law enforcement officials suspect that a particular individual may be openly boasting about criminal activity or posting incriminating photographs or videos online. Officials may also receive tips through their department’s home page which can then be followed up on. If there is an urgent situation (such as a credible threat of violence), officials may file an emergency request with the site to access information. However, many sites have their own legal teams to review requests and the standard for having such a request granted is very high.

The creation of a sound internal policy is the first step toward using social media to an agency’s benefit. Drafting this policy will require consideration of a number of issues, the most important being compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The logical starting point is the Fourth Amendment, which provides that every person has the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures” of their “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Officials should be mindful that the degree of Fourth Amendment protection is almost entirely dependent upon the location from which information is seized, the method of its collection and the type of information obtained. Another source of guidance is 28 CFR Part 23, which is a standard for law enforcement agencies that operate federally funded, multijurisdictional criminal intelligence systems. The purpose behind the regulation is to protect individuals’ privacy and constitutional rights during the collection, storage and dissemination of criminal intelligence information.

Each social networking website features its own unique characteristics; this means a one-size-fits-all approach to drafting a policy should be avoided. However, it is always a good idea to be educated about privacy settings and terms-of-service requirements that seem to apply across all platforms. As just one example, photographs that are posted on public, unrestricted profile pages are treated differently than information on pages viewable only by “friends” of the user when it comes to privacy expectations.

With the abundance of information now available online, law enforcement agencies must take steps to ensure that they are following the law when they gather and act on that information. A thorough social media policy can go a long way in achieving that goal.


For questions or more information on “Getting Social – How Law Enforcement Can (And Should) Be Using Social Media,” contact:


Curtis M. Graham  – MRR Lexington
Phone: 859.899.8516
Fax: 859.899.8498
Email: cgraham@mrrlaw.com

MRR Ohio Legislation Updates: December 4, 2015 – December 17, 2015

Notes from the House of Representatives:

  • H.B. No. 403 was introduced regarding the financing of capital improvement projects in this state by another state or a political subdivision of another state
  • H.B. No. 407 was introduced to require law enforcement agencies that use body cameras to adopt written policies for operation of the cameras and to require agencies to make the adopted policies available to the public
  • H.B. No. 207 was passed by the House, to allow a state fund employer to have a workers’ compensation claim that is likely to be subrogated by a third party paid from the surplus fund account in the state insurance fund rather than charged to the employer’s experience
  • The House approved the Senate’s amendments to H.B. No. 259, which regulates certificates of insurance prepared or issued to verify the existence of property or casualty insurance coverage, updates prompt payment requirements, and requires the administrator of Workers’ Compensation to reduce the transfer of negative experience to a successor employer under certain circumstances
  • The House approved the Senate’s amendments to H.B. No. 340, which extends the operation of the Local Government Innovation Council until December 31, 2019, and modifies political subdivision eligibility for the Local Government Safety Capital Grant Program
  • The House approved the Senate’s amendments to H.B. No. 56, which prohibits public employers from including on an employment application any question concerning the criminal background of the applicant, prohibits a felony conviction from being used against an officer or employee when a public employer is undertaking certain employment practices, unless the conviction occurs while the officer or employee is employed in the civil service, removes the bar against sealing a conviction record when the victim is 16 or 17 years old, and provides that certain independent providers are not employees of the state or a political subdivision
  • H.B. No. 413 was introduced to add to the purposes for which a board of township trustees may go into executive session, to permit a township to charge for recycling services, to reduce the population threshold for a township to adopt a limited home rule form of government, to authorize a township to purchase, lease, or provide underwater rescue and recovery equipment for fire and rescue purposes, to authorize boards of township trustees to pay for group life insurance for any employee, to make other changes to the township laws, to allow taxing units to use the proceeds of a fire, police, or emergency services tax levy to pay costs related to the service for which the tax is levied, and to expand the public infrastructure improvements townships, municipal corporations, and counties may pay for using money from their public improvement tax increment equivalent funds
  • H.B. No. 415 was introduced to create the business linked deposit program, to permit credit unions to participate in that program, to permit credit unions to participate in the agricultural linked deposit program, and to make other changes to the linked deposit law
  • H.B. No. 416 was introduced to enable state colleges and universities to establish joint self-insurance pools

Notes from the Senate:

  • S. B. No. 250 was introduced to prohibit community schools from using state moneys to pay for advertising, recruiting, or promotional materials
  • S. B. No. 251 was introduced to regulate the use of drones for gathering evidence and information by law enforcement officers in Ohio
  • The Senate approved the House’s amendments to S.B. No. 223, which makes changes to the health coverage benefit limits and coverage exclusions for life and health insurance guaranty associations, amends the law relating to reinsurance contracts, updates prompt payment requirements, and makes changes to the effective date of a provision relating to subrogation

For questions or more information on MRR’s Ohio Legislation Updates, contact:

Stacy V. Pollock  – MRR Columbus
Phone: 614.324.0163
Email: spollock@mrrlaw.com

Stacy Pollock 8860

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MRR Article: Long Term Experience Need Not Apply!

Can Requesting Certain Experience Levels Expose You to Liability for Age Discrimination?

By: Tami Z. Hannon, Esq.

We’ve all seen the ads – “seeking a candidate with 5 – 7 years of experience” or “seeking entry level candidates.” But at some point do these ads put you and your company at risk for a claim of age discrimination?  That was just the issue recently addressed by Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals in the case of Ceglia v. Youngstown State University when the Court was called upon to determine whether a request for a “mid-career level” applicant was code for age discrimination.

In that case, Youngstown State sought an applicant for a full-time instructor position. The plaintiff, who had over 20 years of experience, applied for the position. When he was not interviewed or selected for the position, the plaintiff asked why. He was told that the University was looking for “mid-career” applicants and not “someone who had been around for a long time.” Neither of these requirements was expressly stated in the job posting. Instead, the University chose to hire a 44-year old applicant who had little prior teaching experience.

The plaintiff sued alleging age discrimination. The Court of Claims dismissed the case, finding that the search committee had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for not offering the position to the plaintiff in light of alleged past performance issues. The plaintiff appealed. The Tenth District Court of Appeals reversed the decision, finding that it was a question for the jury as to whether “mid-career level” and not wanting “someone who had been around for a long time” was actually code for age discrimination.

In addressing these issues, the Court reasoned that these comments created an inference that the Committee denied the applicant the position because of his age, despite the Committee’s statements that they were referring to career experience. Further troubling to the Court was the fact that the position was awarded to someone who was NOT a mid-career level individual. While the Court did not ultimately determine whether there was in fact discrimination, the Court found that there was enough evidence to present the case to a jury. In other words, the court was not willing to dismiss the case without going to a full trial.

So what can you do to protect yourself from similar claims?

  • Clearly state what qualifications are being sought in the job posting. Make certain any specified qualifications are related to the position being sought and the needs of the organization.
  • Focus on the needs of the position, not the qualifications of the candidate – especially qualifications that can directly relate to the age of a candidate. For example, rather than “mid-career level” applicant, use phrases such as “entry-level position” or “mid-level position” to refer to the job level.
  • Interview applicants that fit within the parameters of the stated requirements and qualifications for your job. If you are listing a requirement in your posting, the individuals interviewed and selected should fit within those requirements.

In light of developing and changing laws, it is always a good idea to constantly review hiring procedures. If you have any questions or concerns about your practices or policies, please contact MRR and we would be happy to review those with you.


For questions or more information on “Long Term Experience Need Not Apply!,” contact:


Tami Z. Hannon  – MRR Cleveland
Phone: 440.424.0009
Fax: 440.248.8861
Email: thannon@mrrlaw.com

When Filming is a Protected First Amendment Right

In 2014, the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, determined that citizens have a clearly established constitutional right to film police officers performing their duties. See Crawford v. Geiger, 996 F.Supp.2d 603 (N.D. Ohio 2014). Federal courts across the country, including the First, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal, have upheld an individual’s right to record officers. Id. at 617. The opinion in Crawford noted that freedom of the press gives the general public the right to record events considered “newsworthy.” New technology allows for almost instantaneous distribution of this newsworthy content. Id. at 61.

At the time of the decision in Crawford, no federal appellate court considering the issue had ruled against a citizen filming police. Id. at 617. While recognizing a constitutional right to film police officers, the right is not absolute. “[A]s of August 26, 2012, the right of a citizen to film police activity in a public setting where there was no present danger of harm to officers or others was clearly established.” Id. at 616.

An individual in the Northern District of Ohio has a constitutionally protected right to record an officer performing his or her duties. However, officers can limit recordings when members of the public actually interfere with police activities, create an unsafe environment, or prevent officers from doing their jobs. Annoyance at the presence of a news-gathering citizen is not enough to limit filming. If a citizen creates a dangerous situation by recording an officer’s activities, the officer should ask the citizen to stop recording; however, the officer should not take the recording device and/or search it without a warrant. Failure to obtain a search warrant may result in additional constitutional violations. Public policy favors dissemination of information on government action, which is reinforced with the decision in Crawford protecting the public’s right to record police officers.


 

MRR Ohio Legislation Updates: November 13, 2015 – December 3, 2015

Notes from the House of Representatives:

  • H.B. 378 was referred to the Committee on Local Government. H.B. 378 would authorize law enforcement officers of township police districts and joint police districts, and township constables, serving specified small populations to make arrests for motor vehicle-related violations committed on an interstate highway in the same manner as township law enforcement officers serving larger populations. (Introduced 10-22-15; Referred to Committee 11-16-15)
  • H.B. 380 was referred to the Committee on Judiciary. H.B. 380 would require each law enforcement agency to adopt a written policy regarding the investigation of firearms-related officer-involved deaths that involve an officer serving the agency; to provide for investigations into officer-involved deaths by investigatory panels of law enforcement officers; to require an investigatory panel to provide a report of its investigation findings to the prosecutor and the officer’s law enforcement agency; to provide for public access to the report, except for information that is not public record, if the prosecutor determines there is no basis to prosecute or a grand jury enters a no bill regarding the involved officer; and to require an investigatory panel to inform the deceased individual’s family members of contact information for the office of the prosecutor handling the case. (Introduced 10-22-15; Referred to Committee 11-16-15)
  • H.B. 389 was referred to the Committee on Community and Family Advancement. H.B. 389 would enact the Ohio Fairness Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, to add mediation to the list of informal methods by which the Ohio Civil Rights Commission may use to induce compliance with Ohio’s Civil Rights Law before instituting a formal hearing, and to uphold existing religious exemptions under Ohio Civil Rights Law. (Introduced 11-5-15; Referred to Committee 11-16-15)
  • H.J.R. No. 5 was introduced to propose enacting Section 2t of Article VIII of the Constitution of the State of Ohio to permit the issuance of general obligation bonds to fund sewer and water capital improvements. (Introduced 12-1-15)
  • Sub .H.B. No. 2017 was passed by the House of Representatives. The bill proposes amending sections 4123.93 and 4123.931 and enacting section 4123.932 of the Revised Code to allow a state fund employer to have a workers’ compensation claim that is likely to be subrogated by a third party paid from the surplus fund account in the state insurance fund rather than charged to the employer’s experience. (Passed by House of Representatives 12-1-15)

For questions or more information on MRR’s Ohio Legislation Updates, contact:

Stacy V. Pollock  – MRR Columbus
Phone: 614.324.0163
Email: spollock@mrrlaw.com

Stacy Pollock 8860

News Release: MRR attorneys named 2016 Ohio Super Lawyers and Rising Stars

MRR is pleased to announce that two of its Ohio attorneys have been selected as 2016 Ohio Super Lawyers and another four have been named 2016 Ohio Rising Stars by Super Lawyers magazine.

The Super Lawyers selection process evaluates lawyers based upon multiple criteria, including professional achievement and peer recognition; honors and awards; firm and bar involvement and leadership; scholarship and professional writings; community service and pro bono activities; and other outstanding achievements.

“Rising Stars” are the top up-and-coming attorneys who have been practicing for no more than 10 years. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

MRR’s attorneys selected as 2016 Ohio Super Lawyers:

Cleveland: Todd M. Raskin and Frank H. Scialdone

Todd Raskin

Raskin

Frank Sciadone

Scialdone

 

 

 

 

 

 


MRR’s attorneys selected as 2016 Ohio Rising Stars:

Cleveland: Tami Z. Hannon, Mary Beth Klemencic, and Cara M. Wright.

Columbus: Stacy V. Pollock

Tami Hannnon

Hannon

Mary Beth Klemencic

Klemencic

Cara Wright

Wright

SVP.V2

Pollock

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