MOUNT CARMEL - Borough council approved a new social media policy Thursday night at its monthly meeting upon recommendation of police Chief Todd Owens.

The resolution establishes the police department's position on the utility and management of social media and provides guidance on its management, administration and oversight for personal use.

Owens said the guidelines are used to avoid potential legal concerns over inappropriate content on borough officers' personal sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

Owens said defense attorneys around the country have been using such private content in civil or criminal cases involving officers, and the guidelines are set up to regulate potential problems.

"It's still a gray area, but if we get a subpoena from a court, we have a policy in place to deal with it," Owens said.

The chief said content should not be "off color" as determined by a "reasonable person," but council will have the final say.

"Department personnel are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their speech does not impair working relationships to this department for which loyalty and confidentiality are important," the policy reads.

If an officer's speech is deemed detrimental to the department, he may be disciplined, according to the statement.

Officers are cautioned not to disclose their employment or post information or photographs that would indicate their position in the department.

The policy also defines the use of the station's social media as investigative and community outreach tools.

Fire companies

The board also approved an increase of $375 in annual allocation to three of the four fire department in the borough and directed each fire company to remove its own garbage.

The allocation increased from $2,625 to $3,000 for Anthracite Steam and Fire Company, American Hose and Chemical Fire Company and Clover Hose Fire Company.

West End Fire Company no longer has an allocation because members and equipment are headquartered in American Hose's building.

The policy and allocation change were both approved in a block of agenda items.

In other business, the council approved:

- Permission to use the town park for the Bark for Life from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 19 and to Mount Carmel Relay for Life for a 24-hour event from Saturday, June 22, to Sunday, June 23. Both events benefit the American Cancer Society.

- The hiring of Ferdinand Diminick Contracting, Danville, at a price of $600 to test the borough lot at 121 S. Oak St. to determine whether the backfill needs replacing.