DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Lt. Regina Smith with the Dallas Police Department did not see any problems with the website that she developed to promote her private record label. She considers the website (www.BigRushin.com — which has been rolled back to “under construction”) a personal matter, an expression of free speech, and a tribute to her late husband.
But the videos that she posted online, showing her dressed provocatively and flashing a gun, could put her job in jeopardy, according to employment attorney Rogge Dunn. “You can fire someone for any reason or no reason at all,” he said.
While public employees have more protection than most, they can still be fired for disparaging their employer. The DPD code of conduct warns that “no employee shall engage in any conduct… which has a tendency to adversely affect, lower or destroy public respect and confidence.” And the court has upheld the police department’s right to enforce that rule.
“Police departments are like quasi-military organizations,” Dunn said. “The decor, morale, are so important to the department that having someone do something that hurts the department is grounds to override their free speech rights.” Dunn believes that the DPD would most likely win this case in a court of law.
The court of public opinion, however, is a different matter.
Lt. Smith’s husband, Sr. Cpl. Norman Smith, died serving the Dallas Police Department. A suspect shot and killed him in 2009, as Smith was trying to serve an arrest warrant. “That makes it a much more dicey situation for the police department,” Dunn said.
Although the controversial website has been disabled, Lt. Smith’s attorney said that she will cooperate with the investigation. “If some of her humor and action were taken the wrong way, that was not her intent,” said Lt. Smith’s attorney, Chris Livingston, in a statement to CBS 11 News.
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