ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU) has sent a warning to Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan and his staff to stop blocking people on social media.
ACLU attorneys claim the department has violated constitutional rights by banning people based on their viewpoints.
On Monday, a letter was sent to Sheriff Morgan by ACLU attorneys.
In it, they demanded he unblock and unban users from the sheriff department’s social media accounts by Friday.
The letter states government agencies or public officials cannot participate in viewpoint discrimination or banning followers.
It cites legal precedent and said the comments are protected by the First Amendment.
We talked to Jimmie Staley, a woman who contacted ACLU after being blocked by the sheriff’s department on Facebook.
“I’ve been very vocal on the handling of cases and questionable acts within their agency,” said Staley.
The letter also states County Attorney Alison Rogers sent out an email in 2018 to county commissioners, warning them of the subject.
In the email, she said a person’s viewpoint is not a sufficient reason to block them.
Pensacola Police tell us they also block some users, but only when profanity is used or threats are made.
“By nature of police work, we are going to have people who don’t agree with us, we are going to have people who don’t agree with the way we do things, those comments are welcomed,” said Pensacola Police Officer Mike Wood. “They just can’t be threatening and they can’t be obscene.”
We reached out to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for comment.
A spokesperson sent a statement saying:
With social media constantly evolving, the ECSO is continuously evaluating the legal guidelines of social media. We will continue serving the people of Escambia County by using social media as a platform to keep them informed while allowing people to have a conversation using freedom of speech.
Staley said she wants the sheriff’s department to be held accountable for their actions.
“They’re a law enforcement agency, they’re supposed to protect the rights and the laws of the county and the state…. and they are very openly violating those,” she said.
Staley said she is threatening to sue if changes aren’t made.
ACLU attorneys are also asking other county departments to release written guidelines on this subject.