The Commander of the USS Enterprise (the US Navy sailing ship, not Captain Kirk’s star fleet battleship), ran into rough seas over lewd videos he made while on-duty, and then aired for the crew of his aircraft carrier. Capt. Owen Honors has been temporarily relieved of duty, while the Navy is conducting a formal investigation.

The videos shot in 2006 and 2007 included gay slurs, suggestive shower scenes, and simulated sexual acts. Capt. Honors characterized the videos as an effort to blow off steam and boost morale on the ship, which was not well-received by the Navy. The videos, ”…were not acceptable then and are not acceptable in today’s Navy.” Navy Cmdr. Chris Smith stated, executive officers and other leaders “… are charged to lead by example and are held accountable for setting the proper tone and upholding the standards of honor, courage, and commitment that we expect sailors to exemplify.” Capt. Honors will have rough sailing ahead, and no doubt discipline will follow.

Goofing around with video doesn’t just happen on naval ships out at sea. A local Minnesota police department experienced similar poor judgment when several of its officers, including a supervisor, shot an anti-management video concerning on-going labor negotiations. The officers made a Star Wars parody while on-duty, with costumes and dialogue. The video was edited to include a rolling text screen like the original Star Wars films, a musical score, and credits. Management was portrayed as the evil empire, and the final scene included a picture of a City Council member with a voice over of the evil emperor.

The department conducted an investigation concerning the Star Wars video, which also uncovered that the employees had made other videos while on- duty. The investigation resulted in discipline of the involved officers. I represented the city at arbitration where Arbitrator Beens upheld a five day suspension of one of the officers, and Arbitrator Moeller reduced a ten day suspension of another officer to a seven day suspension. (pdf) Another case is still pending. 

The union argued the videos were part of team-building and stress-relief at work, but neither arbitrator was convinced. I think it is safe to say creating videos on-duty, unless it is part of a legitimate training function, is very problematic. It is activity which will surely lead to an investigation, and more than likely serious workplace ramifications for employees.