Vol. 14 No. 9- Sample Policy On Email and Internet Access

July 23, 1999

To: All Police Chiefs and Sheriffs

From: Paul R. Coble


With increasing use of both intra- and inter-office email, as well as access of the Internet, we have received a number of inquiries from clients and colleagues concerning development of a sample policy to govern email and Internet access in the law enforcement environment. For that reason, we have drafted the attached sample policy titled “EMAIL AND INTERNET ACCESS.” We offer it for your consideration and use as deemed appropriate to the needs of your agency.

The particular thrust of this sample policy is threefold. The first is to alert employees to the fact that they should have no expectation of privacy in email messages sent over agency networks or from an agency terminal to any other destination. The second is to remind employees that on-duty access of the Internet, or access at any time from an agency computer terminal, is limited to work-related inquiries in furtherance of the agency mission. Thirdly, the policy informs all personnel that email and Internet access is subject to periodic and unannounced audits to ensure compliance.

A final element of the sample policy concerns downloading of material from the Internet. Here, the policy establishes what is essentially a presumption that material found to have been downloaded was done so intentionally by the employee responsible for that computer terminal. Employees may avoid this presumption by fulfilling a duty to immediately inform supervision whenever unwanted or unsolicited material is found by the employee to have been downloaded to his/her agency computer terminal.

We suggest that you always confer with your department’s legal advisor in addressing these issues. Should you have any questions or wish to discuss anything set forth above, please do not hesitate to call Paul R. Coble at (562) 590-8280.



It is the policy of the ________________ Department that use of Department e-mail and/or access to the Internet via Department computers and/or via any medium while on duty shall only be for purposes related to achieving the Department mission.


For the purposes of this order, the following definitions shall apply:

  • E-Mail – E-mail shall mean any computerized system or software designed for the transmittal of written messages, either with or without attachments, from one person to another, from one computer to another, or from one or more e-mail addresses to one or more other e-mail addresses. E-mail shall include such messages generated from personal, network, desktop and/or laptop/notebook computers, as well as mobile digital terminals or other such vehicle-mounted systems.
  • Internet – Internet shall mean any computerized information source accessed via modem or other means from a source external to or apart from the computer or computer network through which the information is sought.


  • Department e-mail shall only be used for purposes related to achieving the Department mission. Department e-mail shall not be used for personal messages or business. The exception would be short and infrequent messages to arrange or confirm appointments, inform family of overtime work, etc.
  • Department members shall not access the Internet while on duty except for purposes directly related to work being performed by that member in furtherance of the Department mission.
  • There shall be no expectation of privacy in Department e-mail messages and/or access of the Internet while on duty, all of which are subject to periodic and unannounced audits to ensure compliance with this order.
  • Department members are responsible for all data or material downloaded from e-mail and/or the Internet to that member’s e-mail address and/or computer terminal. Members shall immediately advise his/her supervisor in writing of any unwanted or unsolicited data or material downloaded to the member’s e-mail address and/or computer terminal. Failure to so advise one’s immediate supervisor will result in a presumption that the member intentionally downloaded and/or retained the material in question.