We've seen it before - The 5th Floor seeking retribution when an officer acting as a private citizen voices painful opinions. Last year, Sergeant Paul Heh stood before the City Council and voiced his opposition to the latest APD contract (read it here). Agree with the outspoken sergeant or not, he has the guaranteed Constitutional right to voice his opinion.
Our Eyes tell us that today the 5th Floor sent out a memo instructing all officers to obtain permission before speaking before any group. Obviously, APD has something to say about what an officer says and to whom when in uniform or representing the department. However, as long as an officer is not in uniform and is not representing the department, the 5th Floor cannot prohibit or attempt to prohibit an officer from speaking their mind in public. Regardless of how embarrassing that officer's opinion is to the department.
Liberty requires freedom of expression. We cannot be truly free without the freedom to express our ideas and opinions. The 5th Floor ought to be very careful when writing memos. If their intent is to underscore existing SOP - that's one thing. If on the other hand, they are attempting to discourage officers from publically speaking their minds - that's quite another. The former is understandable. The latter is an attempt to stifle speech and is contemptible.