Social Media, The Police, And Current Policy

March 30, 2018

Social Media, The Police, And Current Policy

by Ian D Scofield

Those reading the APTI blog for any time know that we have talked about social media before but I watched a video from Mike The Cop that brought up some really good points. Points that could be beneficial to all departments. So, with those points in mind, we are going to talk about social media today.

Didn’t watch the video? Don’t worry, we will cover some of the most important parts. I do encourage you to watch the video yourself, Mike The Cop is a great personality and his videos are both entertaining and educational.

One of the most important points raised in his video is that most police departments don’t have a social media policy. They handle social media “incidents” on a case by case basis. If something is brought to the attention of the department on a social media page of an officer, they address it based off of existing policies and damage to the department.

Then, a good number of the departments that do have a policy about social media encourage their cops not to use it. Departments that do this often have a policy that states that officers can not mention the department on their social media pages, include in that is any picture that shows some distinguishing mark from the department.

Social media is a massive platform that isn’t going anywhere any time soon. While the specific platform may come and go, but more than likely, there will always be a social media platform that the world turns to for enjoyment.

Mike (I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him by his first name) brings up a huge point. The communities that you serve trust you with a gun, a badge, and the power to make life and death decisions. But they don’t trust you to post something on social media?

Why is this? Why do law enforcement administrators and city administrators have such a negative view of social media?

One of the biggest reasons is that a lot of the people in power didn’t grow up with social media. They don’t completely grasp the importance of it in the modern world. This isn’t to say that this is the reason for every department, just for some.

Another reason is that people have made mistakes, posted stupid stuff on social media before. The truth is, that this will happen whether there is a policy in place or not. People make mistakes and do stupid things. But that is only a small portion of the population. Creating a blanket ban for this reason, is stopping both the negatives and the positives.

Many administrators like to have power over every aspect of their city (or department) and that is understandable, it is their job to control and lead their jurisdiction. Giving cops the ability to post on social media would take away a portion of that control.

So, why a huge argument for social media privileges for law enforcement officers?

Around the internet there are a number of law enforcement officers and departments that have become somewhat of internet celebrities. Each one of these officers has done nothing negative for law enforcement. In fact, they have created a positive image for their departments and helped the public come up with a positive image of police around the world.

Social media doesn’t have to be limited to becoming a public image through your posting of content. Mike brings up an example of an officer who got into trouble for posting a picture with his family while he was in uniform. How is an officer supposed to appear to be like everyone else when they can’t post a humanizing family picture? How are they supposed to show their pride in the department that they serve?

A positive social media presence from your department can help to connect with locals and build trust. Some departments have turned to humor or sharing information on their social media pages and have seen great results in building bonds with those that they serve. (Watch Mike’s video for a good example of this)

The same positive image you create with a social media presence can be used to help with recruiting and retention problems. It is hard for an outside to get a good grasp of a department when they are so secretive. Seeing social media posts from both the department and officers can help to create an image that makes people want to join and stay at your department.

All of this connects well to next week’s articles. Next week we are going to be talking about the Humanize The Badge movement and why it is so important. But you can already see how social media can be used to help departments rather than hurt them. Also next week, we are going to be talking about specific policy creation for social media content. This article is just the start.

How do you feel about your department policy now? As always, stay safe out there.



About The Author:

Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice.  He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer.  At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content.  Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.


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