Do Law Officers Have Right to Free Speech?


A Trinity Co. deputy is alleging that his free speech rights have been squelched when he was reprimanded and ordered not to write certain opinions in letters to the editor. The ACLU is representing Deputy Mark Potts.  The Trinity Journal has a nice piece representing both sides of the situation.  Here’s an excerpt:

In one of the letters Potts likened the war on drugs to Prohibition and said it gave rise to the black market and created Mexican drug cartels. In other letters Potts said the federal government has zero authority to involve itself in the issue of marijuana in Trinity County or any state, objected to gun control and called America “Incarceration Nation.”

In February 2012, Potts received a formal written reprimand, recorded in his personnel file, informing him that with the letters he had violated provisions of the Office Policy Manual, prohibiting conduct that is “unbecoming a member of the office” or that reflects “unfavorably upon the office,” as well as speech that “tends to compromise or damage the mission, function, reputation or professionalism” of the office.

The notice also informed Potts that any further violations of the manual could result in additional disciplinary employment action, including termination.


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