August 13, 2021

RE: CJTC Social Media Declaration

Dear WACOPS members,  

Recently, the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) sent notice to Washington State Law Enforcement officers of a requirement for all officers to participate in an on-line training requirement pertaining to certification requirements. Further, officers will be provided a release of information (a “declaration”) consenting to the CJTC review of officers’ social media and asked to sign the release. 

This training and release requirement is the result of Senate Bill 5051, passed by the legislature this past session. CJTC is responsible for implementing the legislation to include policies, procedures, and rules to implement the law. CJTC has not to our knowledge asked for input prior to implementing this portion of the law as discussed during the legislative deliberations.

We have learned that some minor language changes to the disclosure is likely forthcoming as a result of effort by one of our WACOPS member guilds.  We expect an updated training and declaration to be released soon. 

In the meantime, the following is a summary that we hope will be helpful to navigate the requirement.

The CJTC mandated declaration is lawful under the recently passed legislation. Page 15, Section 8 (4) of SB 5051 states: 

As a condition of certification … The peace officer or corrections officer must also consent to and facilitate a review of the officer's social media accounts, however, consistent with RCW 49.44.200, the officer is not required to provide login information. The release of information may not be delayed, limited, or precluded by any agreement or contract between the officer, or the officer's union, and the entity responsible for the records or information. 

Per the new law, as a condition of ongoing CJTC certification, and officer must, on demand: 

  1. “consent to … a review of the officer's social media accounts” by CJTC
  2. “facilitate … a review of the officer's social media accounts” by CJTC
  3. But an officer “is not required to provide login information” to CJTC consistent with RCW 49.44.200. 

Our read of CJTC’s required declaration is that it fits withing the new mandates of SB 5051.  

Of note, social media account log-in information is not required to be provided to CJTC. This would appear to mean that whatever social media content is available in the public sphere is available to the CJTC. In turn, it is unclear what it means for an officer to “facilitate a review” of social media accounts when there is not a requirement that the officer provide social media login information. However, we will continue to be involved with CJTC and our partners as CJTC develops administrative rules further defining what it means to “facilitate review,” or when CJTC has an actual contested certification/decertification case where this issue may arise.   

WACOPS will continue to work diligently to limit CJTC overreach into your personal lives. Two things are abundantly clear, both as independent principles and under SB 5051: 

    1. There is no such thing as private on the internet.
    1. The 1st Amendment is very limited as applied to public employees.  Even off-duty speech can be unprotected under the 1st Amendment for public employees. 

WACOPS recommends the following in the near term as CJTC continues to develop what it plans to do with its new authority: 

1.      Contact your Guild/Association/Union legal representative to seek clarity on the legalities of this issue.

2.      Encourage your members to sign the declaration. Alternatively, at the very least, ensure that your members understand that the relevant portions of SB 5051 make the required declaration a condition of CJTC certification. In other words, your members need to understand that their failure or refusal to sign the declaration may result in decertification by CJTC.

3.      Encourage your members to be aware of the pitfalls of social media and, in some circumstances, consider refraining from social media. Words, pictures, memes, etc. accessible to the public may be inappropriate, misunderstood, or misrepresented. 

4.      Encourage your members to contact their WACOPS delegate before taking any action to “facilitate the review” by CJTC of an officer’s social media. It will be important on a case-by-case basis to determine exactly what is being asked by CJTC of the officer to “facilitate a review” to determine appropriate action.

Please let us know if any question or concerns.  We will keep you updated with any further developments or clarity as available.

Stacy Roark                                                                                       
GRC Chair                         
[email protected]                  

Teresa Taylor 
Executive Director
[email protected] 

Jeff DeVere
WACOPS Lobbyist
[email protected]