Personal Social Media Tips For Law Enforcement

December 03, 2016

Personal Social Media Tips For Law Enforcement

Social media plays a role in just about everybody's life in the modern world.  For Law Enforcement officials, though, social media can be a big risk to both your personal life and operations.  The tips we have gathered here have been selected to help you make your social media world safer.

Use Privacy Options

It is a great idea for anyone to use privacy settings on social media.  You want to make sure that people can’t just find out your personal information.  As a law enforcement officer, you are a public figure and if your social media isn’t locked down, people might be able to find it and learn more about you.  This can be an invasion of privacy and a safety issue.

Do Not Disclose What Department You Work For

It may be public information what department that you work for, but that doesn’t mean your social media has to say it.  Keeping your department off your personal social media page helps to prevent people that you contact from finding you.  If your department name is on your profile, people can search it on Google, along with your name or part of your name, and your social media page will pull up.

Do Not Post About Work

It is a good idea to not post on social media about things that happen at work.  For starters, your department probably has a policy against posting information.  Second, people deserve a certain level of privacy.  You wouldn’t want your banker or doctor to post about their daily encounters.  Lastly, if you post certain kinds of information from your work you might be legally liable.  People can sue you for libel.  There are also other types of suits that can come from this action.

No Patches/Names/Logos

When you post a photograph or video of yourself in uniform or in your work car you should avoid posting any patches, names, or logos.  This helps to protect your department and should also separate you from them when you post the content.  If they do appear in your photographs, blur them out first.

Even departments that allow social media and video posting will often require this.  YouTuber Deputy_Tatum (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9t598fjvbnnQJ_zVeGvB7w) is an example of this.  His department told him that it was fine for him to post YouTube videos of work as long as they did not contain his patch, badge, and decals.  They also requested that he not post enforcement footage.

Keep It Clean

Remember that you will have to testify in a court of law about a lot of the cases that you have come up.  No matter how locked down you have your social media page, a good defense lawyer will be able to find a way to access it.  If your social media shows a trend of negative content or inflammatory content, the attorney can use it in court.

Don’t Add Random People

Occasionally, random people will add you on social media.  We aren’t talking about people that you know who randomly find you.  We are talking about names that you don’t recognize with pictures that you don’t recognize.  These people are usually fishing for information.  Whether they know you are a law enforcement officer or not this information could end up in hands you don’t want them to be.

Not Just For You

All of these tips are not just for your safety but for that of your friends, family, and coworkers.  If a person is able to gather information from your Facebook page or other social media accounts, it can be used for any purpose - even to locate others that are your friends on social media.

Avoid Following Controversial Pages

It is a sad fact that many government agencies are becoming more and more like corporations.  Whenever you go for any kind of interview or promotion board your social media page can be used against you.  You want to make sure that you aren't following any pages like Cop Block or WYSM (Why'd You Stop Me?).  That doesn't mean that you can't view the pages, though.

Avoid Getting In Fights On Social Media

This isn’t specifically a law enforcement tip but a tip for everyone who uses social media.  There are a lot of opinions around the world but don’t let them drag you into a social media fight.  This can lead to real world fights and hard feelings.  It can also lead to workplace issues.  Let’s just agree to avoid these petty arguments (although they will probably still happen).

You don’t have to use all of these tips, but even if you start to use some of these tips you will have a much safer internet presence.

About The Author

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Department of Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at ian@iandscofield.com.





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