Panel recommends policy changes after Orange deputies suspended over TikTok videos

Deputies are still allowed to post on TikTok

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A citizens advisory committee has recommended changes to the Orange County Sheriff’s social media policy after two deputies were suspended for posting inappropriate TikTok videos of themselves while wearing agency uniforms.

At the request of Sheriff John Mina, the eight-member citizens’ panel spent more than two months reviewing the agency’s current rules governing employees’ personal social media use.

Under the committee’s recommendations, agency members would be required to receive prior approval before posting photographs or videos on social media that depict the employees in uniform or working on duty.

“I think what it does is require the deputy to think about what they’re doing,” committee chair Allie Braswell Jr. said “What we’re trying to do is bring credibility to the badge.”

Orange County Deputy Shelby Abramson received a 120-hour suspension earlier this year after an internal sheriff’s office investigation concluded that she posted videos on TikTok that showed her dancing to explicit music while dressed in her uniform, News 6 reported.

Abramson was punished for unbecoming conduct and insubordination.

The deputy posted several TikTok videos while the sheriff’s investigation was still open, records show, and she has created even more new videos since the internal probe was formally closed April 14.

While investigating Abramson’s videos, sheriff’s officials discovered another uniformed deputy was also posting TikTok videos with explicit lyrics.

Sha Quan Smith-Ramsay received a 100-hour suspension for unbecoming conduct.

The sheriff’s current social media policy provides guidelines on how employees should approach their personal social media accounts.

“Agency personnel are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not impair working relationships of this agency or negatively affect the public perception of the agency,” the policy states.

Employees are cautioned that speech made pursuant to their official duties and responsibilities is not protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and may form the basis for discipline if deemed detrimental to the agency.

For safety and security reasons, the agency’s policy cautions employees to avoid displaying “agency logos, uniforms, or similar identifying items on personal social media pages.”

The current policy does not prohibit deputies from appearing in uniform on their personal social media pages, nor does it require them to seek approval.

The Citizens Advisory Committee believes the policy should be changed so that agency employees must receive permission before appearing in uniform on social media.

“I think with our law enforcement officers, this really gives them an opportunity to represent their best self and be able to represent the community we serve in the right manner,” Braswell said.

The committee also recommended other changes to the existing policy that would better emphasize that deputies’ social media appearances must comply with the agency’s existing code of conduct.

“We’re not saying, ‘You can’t do that.’ We’re saying, ‘Be mindful. There might be consequences for that,” committee co-chair Eric Kidwell said.

Sheriff Mina is not required to adopt the Citizens Advisory Committee recommendations, but Braswell said Mina has quickly implemented most of the committee’s prior suggestions.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.