Social Networking for Law Enforcement Officers
The widespread adoption of social media technology in the United States and across the world has had many unintended consequences. One of the most unusual of these is the fact that social networking websites have now become crime-fighting tools for law enforcement officials. In the past few years, there have been dozens of stories of individuals whose social networking footprint led to their eventual arrest. In a way, social networking websites give law enforcement officers an insight into the criminal mind that they have never enjoyed before.
On the flipside, however, social networking has also forced officers to be much more cautious about how they use the Internet themselves. As the protectors of our society, police officers are held to a higher standard of conduct than average citizens. So when a police officer is caught making inappropriate remarks on Facebook or openly discussing a pending case on a blog, the fallout is much greater.
This article will discuss social networking for law enforcement officers and how they can enhance their online reputations and maintain a positive online image.
Don’t fool around on Facebook.
With its more than 750 million users, Facebook is a true juggernaut of social media. But just because so many people use Facebook doesn’t mean that anything goes, especially if you’re a police officer.
Generally speaking, Facebook is an open community. Even if you utilize the site’s privacy controls to hide your profile from public searches, there’s still a chance that what you share on Facebook could end up in front of the wrong audience. That’s why good social networking for law enforcement officers means carefully posting any content, including images and links, that could reflect poorly on their character.
Plenty of people vigilantly watch Facebook for officer misconduct. In a sense, this is a good thing. Legitimate corruption in law enforcement is a danger to society and should be rooted out as soon as possible. Of course, that makes it all the more important that regular, hardworking police officers take proactive steps to keep their reputations clean online.
Keep the case in the courtroom.
From robberies to murderers, police officers have to deal with serious issues each day. Although it’s easy to empathize with their need to tell someone about their job, it’s also important that police officers understand that the Web isn’t the right forum for those discussions. Social networking for law enforcement officers means keeping the case in the courtroom.
Defense attorneys regularly search Google and social networking websites for any and all information that could help their case. That means searching for information on witnesses, jurors, the prosecutor and the investigating police officers. If you’re speaking openly about the case online, you could unintentionally give the defense attorney ammunition to demonstrate prejudice. Save conversations about work for a different time and a different venue.
Use your social profiles to reach out to the community.
As a police officer you’re expected to be a pillar of the community. Why not use your social networking presence to live up to that reputation and make yourself available to those in need?
You should never use your Facebook profile to hide a life of masked vigilantism, but you can use your social networking profiles to provide crime-fighting resources to your community.
An increasing number of police departments across the country are creating Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts to help keep citizens informed of ongoing issues. Learn if anything like that’s happening in your police department, and see if you can get involved. You may be able to leverage the police department’s social networking efforts toward building your own positive online reputation. Either way, social networking for law enforcement officers can also include an engaging, thoughtful relationship with readers.