Police Embrace Social Media

By John Wagley

It has only had to remove about a dozen posts since its launch in January. Some concerned laws surrounding marijuana, Waugh says. One was an inappropriate comment about a homicide. Before removing posts, the department takes a screen shot and saves it for its records, she says.

The RPD also controls what types of information the department itself places on social media sites. For example, materials such as commentary, pictures, and videos usually need to go through the public affairs department.

Departments should also develop a policy about how employees use their private accounts, say some experts. In at least a handful of recent cases, officers have been dismissed or faced legal trouble due to postings on their private accounts. Yet departments also need to respect their employees’ freedom of expression, particularly when they’re off-duty.

The IACP’s Center for Social Media, which includes at least a few model policies on its Web site, generally encourages departments to forbid employees from representing the department on personal Web sites. At least one model policy forbids the use of department insignias, for example.

The IACP also suggests providing employees with information on how to protect their safety and privacy online. In some instances, officers may place themselves in danger by revealing too much information, says Kolb. Departments may want to include language describing how networking sites’ privacy policies can shift over time. Department policies might also state how certain officers, such as those working undercover, should take particularly strong steps to safeguard their online privacy.

For a look at how the London Metropolitan Police used social media during the riots earlier this year see "Police Launch Social Media Initiative to Identify London Rioters" by Security Management assistant editor Carlton Purvis.



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