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Burning question: What can firefighters post online?

As Fire Department leadership investigates Marcel Salter’s controversial Instagram post, the Daily News examines the department’s social-media guidelines.

An Instagram by @camman_cell, with the caption: "Our real enemy...need 2 stop pointing guns at each other & at the ones that's legally killing innocents."
An Instagram by @camman_cell, with the caption: "Our real enemy...need 2 stop pointing guns at each other & at the ones that's legally killing innocents."Read more

AS FIRE Department leadership decides the fate of a paramedic who caused an uproar with a controversial Instagram post, one question still burns.

What are department members like Marcel Salters, a paramedic at Medic 23 in West Philly, allowed to post on social media?

The rules seem pretty standard for professionals, at least according to the Fire Department's social media and networking guidelines, obtained by the Daily News.

Employees can't post "messages, images, comments or cartoons" that are threatening or sexually explicit, or hurl epithets or slurs against race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, according to the guidelines.

The same goes for posts that "perpetuate discrimination" against those criteria.

It remains unclear how Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer will rule on Salters' post, a still from a rap video that depicts two black men pointing guns at a white police officer with the caption: "Our real enemy. Need 2 stop pointing guns at each other and at the ones that's legally killing innocents."

Executive Chief Clifford Gilliam, a Fire Department spokesman, told the Daily News on Thursday that the post is under investigation and that Sawyer will decide what discipline, if any, to dole out after the probe.

Discipline over social-media content has been "all over the place" in previous incidents, according to Joe Schulle, the president of Local 22, the firefighters' union.

"Nothing has been established as to what the appropriate level of discipline is for the department's standards," said Schulle, who noted that the union has often butted heads with the department over the social-media guidelines.

In the past, Schulle said, punishments for violations have ranged from a letter of reprimand to two weeks' suspension without pay.

Only once has the department fired an employee over a social-media post: About a year ago, a firefighter still in the probationary period of his employment wrote "screw risk evaluation," a course he had taken at the academy, on a private site for fire cadets, according to Schulle.

Former Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, Sawyer's predecessor, saw the post and "took exception to it," Schulle said.

Schulle emphasized that that was a special instance - different standards for termination apply to probationary employees - and that Salters' case is still being investigated.

He noted, however, that if department administrators choose a punishment the union deems too severe, the union can contest it through arbitration.

Schulle said he believes that Salters is truly sorry about his actions, and has "sincerely apologized" for the post.

"I hope it weighs in on the department's decision on punishment that he is contrite and has issued a public apology," Schulle said.

"It would most certainly weigh in our decision to arbitrate."