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Police discuss Facebook policy fallout

Sheriff said he never signed off on social media policy for officers

FALLOUT -- regarding a new Facebook policy for Jacksonville police officers. A policy that has now been reversed .. we've learned not only did the policy not go through the normal channels at the sheriff's office .. but a local attorney tells Channel 4 portions of the policy could have violated federal law.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville's Sheriff Office has released details about the fallout over premature social media policy it issued last month.

Channel 4 first reported this story to a few weeks ago when the sheriff's office mistakenly released General Order 76, a social media policy for officers.

JSO redacted the original policy, but Channel 4's lawyers found serious issues with some of the directives within the policy.

The sheriff was supposed to sign off on the policy, but on camera he told Channel 4 that he didn't. After requesting the internal documents surrounding the Facebook policy, Channel 4 asked the sheriff how his signature went on something he didn't see. According to JSO's own policy, the sheriff is required to sign off on all new orders.

Sheriff John Rutherford told Channel 4's Emily Turner that didn't happen with the first issuance of the general order.

"As I said, the new policy simply got caught up in all the revisions and she signed off on it without me signing off on it, and I should have," Rutherford said, referring to the head of the committee that writes JSO policies.

It is an embarrassing mistake that the sheriff's office has been chasing ever since. The sheriff's office pulled the social media policy back, but not before it caused a stir among employees.

In an internal email, a sergeant offers his input on the policy: "Help keep the troops to a dull roar when they read the new revisions."

Channel 4 requested all communication between the undersheriff, sheriff and his assistant on the order. But that assistant, according to documents is the closest this policy every got to the top before it was improperly issued.

Channel 4 crime expert and former public information officer, Ken Jefferson, said releasing the policy by accident was a big mistake.

"When it's of this magnitude and affecting so many people, you cannot allow something like this to slip through the cracks," he said.