Police officers are highly visible members of the community, and the nature of the job means that they're under constant scrutiny for everybody from other city officials and journalists as part of their jobs to angry citizens bitter over a ticket. It's important to keep your private life private when you're a police officer. Here's what you need to know about privacy for cops.
Know What You're Expected to Keep Public While On The Job
First and foremost, officers should be aware of the expectations upon them when interacting with citizens or just on the beat. For example, many officers believe they have the right not to be photographed or filmed while performing their duties, but this is not correct under the law. Familiarizing yourself with what's expected of you and where your rights lie while on the clock will reduce problems with citizens who may not understand your role and help you keep the public safe.
Accept That Your Professional Life Will Be Under The Microscope
Like it or not, the Internet means that sites such as Rate My Cop are going to be out there and possibly be one of the first things people look at. Take it as a way to collect feedback about how you can be a better advocate for public safety, even if the poster means it personally. When on the job, there is no privacy for police.
Draw a Sharp Line Between Personal and Professional
Police officers can often find themselves in awkward situations. Every officer has had at least one moment where a friend or even a friend of a friend asks if you can help them out with a situation like a parking ticket or other minor annoyance. Part of police officer privacy is explaining that you can't interfere in every legal matter.
Limit this by establishing boundaries and making it clear that these boundaries shouldn't be crossed, both in person and online. Ask that they respect your privacy as a peace officer.
Every officer needs to take off the uniform once in a while.
Maintain Separate Social Media Profiles
Part of being a police officer is keeping up a public presence. If you're interacting with the public on a regular basis as part of your job, it's worth maintaining a social media presence as a law enforcement professional. Don't hesitate, however, to also maintain a profile for yourself as a private citizen. This will allow you to enforce the personal/professional boundary and also mean you can play games on Facebook and talk to family and friends without always being "on the job." Earning a little privacy as a police officer is important.
Keep Your Private Profiles Private
Limit your private profile, as much as possible, to people you know personally. The impulse, especially on social media, is to send friend requests to absolutely everyone you meet, but if you do that, you might find the boundary between officer and person blurring. Limit it to people you know.
Remember to Sort Personal Problems from Professional Ones
If a citizen with a grudge is going after you, it can be difficult to determine whether you should act as an officer or a private citizen. We recommend talking the situation over with your commanding officer first before acting. Maintaining your privacy as a law officer rests on proportionate response, both personally and on the job.
If you've got a problem you need to treat as a private citizen, ReputationDefender is here to help. We can help you prevent online defamation and help protect the personal privacy of cops via email with professional advice that enables you to deal with the situation without making it worse. If you need help keeping your personal life from being dragged into your professional one, get in touch with us today.