Orange County deputy suspended over filming TikTok videos while in uniform to ‘humanize the badge’

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ORANGE COUNTY, FL – An Orange County Sheriff’s deputy has reportedly received a three-week suspension following an investigation into her use of TikTok where she uploaded videos to the platform while in uniform.

Back in January, we at Law Enforcement Today reported on how an investigation was launched against 29-year-old Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Shelby Abramson, where the deputy had apparently regularly posted videos to TikTok while in uniform.

According to OCSO officials, Deputy Abramson was levied a three-week suspension for unbecoming conduct and insubordination regarding her social media activity.

Deputy Abramson has reportedly tried to reason with OCSO investigators looking into her social media activity, saying that she was simply “humanizing the badge,” with her TikTok content to show that “we are not just this bad guy behind a gun.”

OCSO policy reportedly prohibits employees from participating in social media activity that could “negatively affect the public perception of the agency.”

Furthermore, the OCSO policy notes that speech made pursuant to employees’ official duties is not protected under the First Amendment.

The deputy’s troubles first began back in December of 2020 when Deputy Abramson was caught by a fellow school resource officer live streaming on TikTok in uniform while inside of a marked OCSO patrol vehicle.

Apparently, some of the comments on her uploaded videos were critical of her being on-duty and dancing online, with one TikTok user reportedly commenting:

“Charging taxpayers money to make TikToks.”

Deputy Abramson had reportedly responded to that comment online with:

“I’m glad I can entertain you. I’ll keep dancing for all you Karens.”

A supervisor had reportedly caught wind of the video and informed Deputy Abramson to stop using TikTok while she was on-duty. Following that interaction with the supervisor, an unidentified OCSO sergeant had sent Deputy Abramson an email noting:

“I understand the intent may not be malicious, but perception is reality. Please do not let social media be a distraction while on duty, which could jeopardize your safety and the safety of others.”

This email also instructed Deputy Abramson to not post anything online that has the propensity to “shed a negative light on your character and the Sheriff’s Office.”

However, less than three weeks after that email, Deputy Abramson reportedly uploaded another TikTok video – in full uniform – dancing to the song “Me Too” by Kevin Gates.

When the investigation into Deputy Abramson’s social media activity was taking place, employees from the OCSO were interviewed about their take on the content uploaded by the deputy and some of the responses received was that some videos were “offensive” and “embarrassing to the agency.”

The report from the investigation that wrapped in April concluded with the following:

“Although most of the videos Deputy Abramson posted were benign, some of the audio tracks contained foul language and sexually explicit lyrics. These videos provided an image to the public that placed members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in disrepute and do not align with the values of the organization.”

Deputy Abramson was issued a 100-hour suspension for unbecoming conduct and a 20-hour suspension for insubordination, according to OCSO officials.

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As mentioned earlier, we at Law Enforcement Today previously reported on the investigation that was launched against the deputy over her TikTok videos.

Here’s that previous report.

ORANGE COUNTY, FL – The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has reportedly begun an internal investigation into a 29-year-old deputy whose videos on TikTok have been seemingly uploaded to the platform while she was on-duty, adorning the agency’s uniform and possibly inside of a patrol vehicle.

While the sheriff’s office has not received any complaints about the content uploaded, there apparently are concerns about the general optics of a uniformed deputy uploading videos to social media while presumably on-duty.

Deputy Shelby Abramson joined the Orange County Sheriff’s Office back in November of 2019 and began uploading videos to TikTok roughly a few months after she was hired.

The OCSO became aware to Deputy Abramson’s social media activity after a fellow deputy within her chain of command had come across some of these videos.

From what the OCSO says of the videos reviewed so far, is that they are generally innocuous in nature.

Deputy Abramson, who works as a school resource officer, has apparently uploaded some videos of herself dancing along and lip syncing to various popular songs, some of which do have explicit lyrics, but nothing out of the norm of modern pop music.

Some of these other videos reportedly uploaded by the deputy encouraged her online following to support law enforcement and offers somewhat of a look inside the life of a sheriff’s deputy.

Another one of these videos apparently hosted Deputy Abramson showing off some of the issued equipment deputies are allotted, pointing out how her belt hosts a Taser and a single firearm.

Also, among some of the other videos uploaded by the deputy, Deputy Abramson appears to be standing in front or sitting inside of what appears to be her patrol vehicle.

A large component of this investigation, according to Sheriff John Mina, is that officials are just trying to get an understanding of where and when these videos were recorded.

The OCSO does host policy that outlines how the agency’s official social media channels should be managed, while also providing guidelines on how OCSO employees should manage their personal social media accounts.

Currently, Deputy Abramson has close to 64,000 followers on her TikTok; nearly the same amount of people that follow the official OCSO Twitter account and almost four times as many people that follow Sheriff Mina directly on Twitter.

As many have seen over the years, especially with the case of former Port of Seattle Police Officer Greg Anderson, utilizing social media while in uniform can be extremely dicey territory.

As such, the OCSO cautions their employees that speech which would normally fall under the First Amendment could serve as a basis for disciplinary action if the speech uploaded to social media is pursuant to their official duties and responsibilities and detrimental to the agency.

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Steve Montiero notes that law enforcement utilizing social media does have its positive aspects. Typically with many law enforcement officers using platforms to humanize themselves apart from the positions they hold. He stated:

“They want people to see, ‘Hey, look, I’m your neighbor. I listen to the same music as you.”

But even Trooper Montiero knows that there are caveats with law enforcement personnel uploading to social media while appearing to be on duty, i.e., when they are adorning official uniforms or inside of issued vehicles while posting online.

He says that some who see the videos online may be wondering whether the officers could be doing something more productive while on the taxpayers’ dime:

“Should (the officers) be responding to calls? Are they missing calls because of this? Do I think any of that is happening? Probably not. But it’s all about perception.”

The internal investigation into Deputy Abramson’s social media activity is ongoing, but she is reportedly still on the job while the matter is being investigated.  

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