Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Social Media & Your Department

There are many jobs where your job in a position of authority causes you to give up a little bit of your personal life.  It's always been pretty true, as officers have always been expected to maintain a certain moral code both on- and off-duty.  However, as our lives have become immersed in social media the line of what constitutes as private is becoming significantly more and more blurred.

Officers post comments and pictures about things they are doing on-duty and off-duty to places such as Facebook and Twitter.  And all too often you can look at the news and read about an officer who has been placed on administrative leave or fired for something they posted online.  Why?  What they post privately has the ability to affect not only their reputation but the reputation of their entire department as well.

The Social Media and Internet in Law Enforcement (SMILE) Conference reviewed several issues that relate directly to officers and social media....specifically steps that can be taken to ensure that officers stay out of trouble.

1.  Develop a Departmental Policy - Clearly outline acceptable/unacceptable online behaviors and have a set course of action to deal with with online behavioral issues.  Continuously modify your departmental policy as technology changes.

2.  Keep Up To Date With The Technology - Technology and social media advances are continuously evolving.  It is important to keep up to date with these changes.  If you are not technology savvy, it is recommended that you enlist the support of a younger more tech-savvy officer to help you out.

3.  Create a Training Plan - Teach officers how to keep their personal lives private.  Go above and beyond giving them a set of rules to follow; teach them that these guidelines are too keep them out of trouble and in a job.  It's about keeping them from making a mistake that will possibly cost them their career.  Many people are not aware of the reach of social media...or the fact that once something is on the internet it's there forever.  Teach your officers so that they aren't an uneducated victim of the dangers of social media.

4.  Teach Social Media Ethics - It goes without saying that police officers have their own sense of humor that the general public might not always find funny.  A prime example: trophy photos.  Will you and your fellow cop buddies find an arrest photo like the one pictured funny? Maybe.  Will your civilian friends find the same photo funny?  Maybe not....they might even find it offensive.  And that is when the trouble starts.  Definitely do not share trophy photos on your social media pages!

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