Rantz: WA Commission forcing cops to show private social media content or face termination

Aug 9, 2021, 8:53 PM | Updated: Sep 2, 2021, 7:45 pm

Law enforcement officers are being told they will lose certification if they don't allow commission...

Law enforcement officers are being told they will lose certification if they don't allow commissioners from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) to personally inspect any of their social media accounts. (Screenshot courtesy of King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht)

(Screenshot courtesy of King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht)

Update on 09-02-21 at 7:45pm: The CJTC has walked back it’s demand. 


Officers were told they could lose certification if they don’t allow commissioners from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) to inspect their social media accounts personally.

At the end of a new online training session for police certification, officers must consent to a review of any of their social media accounts immediately upon request by a member or representative of the CJTC. It’s due by Oct. 31, and must be completed by all officers in the state. King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht shared a screenshot with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The language appears to come from a new law passed by Senate Democrats under the guise of police accountability. But cops were caught off guard by the request because they understood this new requirement — which they opposed — was for new hires.

Two large police unions are telling their members not to sign the declaration. At least one sheriff is demanding clarity. And officers statewide are raising significant concerns over a violation of their rights.

State wants access to private social media accounts

The requirement from the CJTC is unambiguous. You must allow your social media accounts to be reviewed.

The declaration from the training asks officers to “consent to, and agree to facilitate, a review of any of my social media accounts immediately upon a request by a representative of the Commission. I understand that failure to facilitate such a review when requested may result in a decertification action.”

This implies, for example, if a commissioner asks to review an officer’s Twitter account, they could ask to review content that isn’t even public, such as your direct messages.

The intent of the new training was outlined in a CJTC email to law enforcement agencies, which the Jason Rantz Show obtained on KTTH. It reads in part:

When peace officers were mandated to be certified in 2001 and corrections by July 1, 2021, they were required to provide consent to their employee records if there was misconduct that could lead to revocation. In ES22B 5051, the consent now includes social media accounts.

The CJTC is effectively telling officers, regardless of their years in service, that they no longer have an expectation of privacy on social media accounts. It also sends a chilling message that will stifle an officer’s right to free speech.

But is this actually required by law, or are they misinterpreting it?

The new law appears to guide this change

This new requirement stems from SB 5051, part of the Democrats’ effort to dismantle and rebuild law enforcement agencies statewide.

The new law lays out conditions of certification to be a peace officer. It reads in part:

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.

Agencies believed this would only apply to recruits — not existing officers. Once an officer leaves the CJTC, they are normally subject to rules and regulations of their agency. But the bill is written somewhat vaguely, and the structure and placement in the bill make this condition seem open to interpretation as to whom it applies to.

There’s also a belief amongst law enforcement that this is intended only in cases of serious complaints being waged against an officer for conduct on social media. The law gives the CJTC considerable powers in cases of purported misconduct. But it could also only impact current officers who leave a department, to return at some point in the future.

The series of laws have been widely panned for how poorly written and thought out they appear. It’s caused so much chaos and concern that some high-ranking law enforcement officials believe this was by design; the intent was to confuse law enforcement.

CJTC Executive Director Monica Alexander responded to a request for comment early Tuesday morning. She said she believes the “law applies to all certified peace officers in WA State.” She said it would only apply to a certification or decertification matter.

Confusion and anger as two unions advise against signing declaration

Officers that reached out to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH expressed confusion and anger over this new declaration. They said they wouldn’t sign it. In fact, two local unions are taking the same position.

The King County Police Officers Guild was caught off guard. They emailed members saying they “were just made aware of this and are working to address this issue.”

“At this time, we are recommending that you DO NOT TAKE the WSCJTC Training until we can get more information to address these serious concerns,” the email reads. (Emphasis from the union email.)

The Seattle Police Officers Guild is recommending the same.

Meanwhile, the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs is reviewing the implications. Some members believe the CJTC is misinterpreting the new law.

Sheriffs weigh in and express concern

Sheriffs contacted by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH expressed deep concern and surprise by the CJTC language.

“We were surprised to see it,” Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney tells me.

He said he’s reached out for legal guidance on what this means. Like others, he was under the impression the requirement was only for recruits.

Fortney is far from the only sheriff concerned.

“I’m concerned about how quickly this came about without much notice from the CJTC and without explanation. The training, in my estimation, supplies just a snapshot of what people need to know before they sign their name to something,” King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. “And so I’ll be working with my legal advisor to determine next steps and speak with the labor unions affected tomorrow [Tuesday].”

Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett, a former board member on the CJTC, ripped the declaration.

“It’s an extreme overreach. For the state to say they have the right to go into a personal social media account? It’s such an overreach,” Sheriff Burnett told me. “Everything is taking away local control in this legislation. They’re not allowing you to police and train your staff. It’s all about the state taking over this drastic control, and through that, you have this overreach in this new wording in the legislation.”

Like Fortney and Johanknecht, he is seeking clarification.

Updated at 7:51 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2021, to add comments from CJTC Executive Director.

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-7pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

equity director racist...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Equity director fired after racist comment about Mexicans

The state's first Office of Equity director was ousted after complaints of racist remarks and using a "White supremacy" metaphor.

1 day ago

Federal Way Walmart...

Max Gross

Gross: Federal Way resident fed up over repeated Walmart crimes

Multiple police responses have been needed at the two Walmart locations in Federal Way. One incident was reported as an aggravated assault.

1 day ago

Mark mullet governor...

Frank Sumrall

Mark Mullet: ‘I’m not conceding any Democratic votes to Ferguson’ for governor

Washington State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-5th District) announced his candidacy for governor last week following Gov. Jay Inslee's 10-year run.

1 day ago

LGBT Pride...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: WA Fish and Wildlife LGBT Pride tweet saved my life

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's LGBT Pride tweet saved my life. Its leaders deserve the credit they're asking for.

2 days ago

burien encampment...

Frank Sumrall

Burien encampment cleared, but long-term solutions remain minimal

Homeless members of a Burien encampment were forced to move out as the camp became the central focus of frustration among the city's residents.

3 days ago

Follow @https://twitter.com/jasonrantz...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Elementary sex ed promoted puberty blockers, pubic hair art

An elementary school offered inappropriate sex ed lessons to students without parental consent or district approval.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Rantz: WA Commission forcing cops to show private social media content or face termination