POLK COUNTY, Fla. — For the second time in a week, a Polk County fire rescue worker has resigned over posting on-the-job photos to social media.
The revelation has some residents questioning whether the county’s social media policy needs to be stressed more clearly.
“Too much goes out for that shouldn’t go out,” said Charlotte Smith, a Polk County resident.
Smith and others were disappointed and concerned after a second fire rescue worker resigned for violating county policies by sharing work-related images on social media.
County leaders say on Monday, Michael Ruby, a medic hired in January 2018, resigned rather than being terminated.
Department officials conducted an internal investigation and concluded that Ruby had posted photos after responding to a motorcycle crash and on other occasions. The pictures include images of his fire truck, a screenshot with info about the crash victim, and even blood on the ambulance floor.
“To me, it’s a violation of human rights,” said Polk resident Linda Simpson.
“When I’m at work, I don’t do personal stuff. And I feel like anybody that’s on somebody else’s time, especially if it’s taxpayers shouldn’t be doing personal things,” said resident Terri Goodrich.
A week earlier, Polk County officials accepted the resignation of Fire Capt. James Williams, who had published images from at least two fire scenes, including a fatal fire that took the life of 76-year-old Loretta Pickard.
Now, with a second resignation, some wonder if this is just the tip of the iceberg. Residents also wonder whether there are more out there who ignore or don’t understand the county’s policy when it comes to sharing images while on the job.
“It just seems that it’s not a coincidence that there are two. And not just one,” said Simpson.
So far, county commissioners, county managers and the fire chief have all declined to comment on camera. But people who live and work in Polk County say it’s up to officials to make the policy clear.
“You know, it needs to be said that this is going to happen to you if you get caught on social media, and then they have to follow through on it,” said business owner Tom Fossett. “Because if you don’t follow through on it, then you’re just talking.”
Polk County is still awaiting the results of an outside organization’s report, looking into the November fire that killed Pickard and whether policies were violated. Among them, Capt. Williams posting images from the fire scene on Snapchat.
Now, with a second resignation, it’s raising questions of whether such behavior is more pervasive than previously thought.
“I think there is enough supervision in the department that it won’t be happening again anytime soon,” said Goodrich, “If people value their jobs. And respect the taxpayers.”
“I think they need retraining. If there’s two that this was done to, then yes, they need to have some more training,” said Simpson. “And this is not acceptable. This is what you need to do.”
Polk County officials say in January 2019, they updated the employee handbook, and in February 2019, every county worker was given a copy. They were urged to review county policies, including those regarding social media before signing it.
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