ST. LOUIS — The city will require all 7,200 of its civil service employees to get additional training on discrimination, harassment and social media rules following reports of racist, violent and anti-Muslim Facebook posts by some police officers.
Personnel Director Rick Frank said civil-service workers now get training on discrimination and harassment policy when they are hired and take “refresher courses” every three years. They also have to sign off annually on the city’s social media policy, which was begun last summer.
From now on, Frank said Wednesday, every employee will be required to get the training once a year. It will also incorporate social media issues.
Frank’s move is in addition to previously-announced plans to require police to undergo social media and sensitivity training, beginning with 60 to 70 sergeants next week.
Frank said government employees’ constitutional rights of free speech are “balanced by the need to have a fair, discrimination-free positive work environment.”
Frank said he was concerned by “the very atrocious, negative type of postings” by some police here and in other parts of the country in a report by the Philadelphia-based Plain View Project.
A Plain View official said 22 Facebook accounts with objectionable posts in the group’s study were tied to current St. Louis police officers and 21 to former officers.
Some of the St. Louis-based Facebook posts in the Plain View report display the Confederate flag and question whether Black History Month is racist. Others tout the roughing up of protesters, mock foreign accents and express disgust with Islam.
Frank said in another change, his office will now monitor compliance with the refresher-course requirement instead of leaving it up to individual agencies.
The city’s social media policy, adopted in July and updated in September, deals with both employee use of city technology and with their personal use of social media.
The personal use section includes a prohibition on posting content “that disparages a person or group of persons” based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and other factors.
The policy also says employees shouldn’t post content that threatens violence.
Frank said several city workers have been punished for violations related to social media policy, including a handful of police officers.