Hot Tips to Help You Stay Cool on Social Media

Police officers today face the problem of learning how to manage the private lives on social media given the fact they work in the public sector. It can be exceptionally hard for law enforcement officers to keep their private lives private. There are so many different ways in which the information an officer might post on his social media site that can affect his security and that of his family as well as his fellow officers.

Does This Mean Officers Should Not Use Social Media?
Absolutely not! However, what it does mean, is that you need to be very aware of what you do with your various social media accounts. Your social media is open to being seen by untold numbers of people, not all of which have the best of intentions. It cannot be said enough, that you must be VERY careful with what you post. Many officers have found themselves facing disciplinary actions from within their own departments for things they have posted.

Many of these cases occurred despite the officers in question best attempts to keep their posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and forth private. At some point, a derogatory post, an inappropriate photo, even posts that don’t seem to be offensive in nature, but could be misconstrued can easily end up being seen by the wrong person. This can happen even if you screen your friends lists and maximized your security settings.

The thing is, that no matter how you have your security settings set up, if a friend shares your post and then share it on their page, it could easily end up in the wrong hands. Whether it is pictures of your brother and sister LEOs in uniform together, a derogatory comment, even an off-color joke, things like this do NOT belong on your social media. One of the hardest parts about being in law enforcement is that there are certain aspects of your life you simply don’t get to share with the general public.

Keep Yourself to Yourself
One of the most important things to keep in mind as a law enforcement officer, is that you need to keep the amount of personal information you put on any of the many different forms of social media to a bare minimum. This information might be accessed by suspects, those who seek to do you harm, even defense attorneys will access this information in an attempt to gain leverage over you or do you and your family harm.

The best way to sum it all up is to simply say that while there is nothing wrong with making use of the many different social media platforms out there, you must be extremely careful with what types of information you post. Social media continues to evolve at a pace most law enforcement departments can’t keep up with. As such, many do not have adequate rules in place regarding how their officers use social media. No matter what the rules are, it is up to each individual officer to protect themselves and their families by using social media wisely.

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Is Your Department Using Hand-Held Narcotics Analyzers?

With the use of narcotics steadily on the rise in the U.S., more law enforcement agencies are starting to use handheld narcotics analyzers. The simple to use yet highly sophisticated devices can help speed up the legal process, while at the same time helping departments to significantly reduce the cost of testing.

Traditional Narcotics Testing
For decades officers had two options with regard to narcotics analysis. The first was to use a wet chemistry field test. The second involved sending a blood sample to a large and very expensive laboratory along with highly experienced and costly technicians to run the tests and determine the presence of any narcotics and the amount of each in the subject’s blood. Along with being very expensive, lab testing could take several days until the results were returned.

Enter the handheld narcotics analyzer, a simple to use, yet highly accurate device that will allow law enforcement officers, border control officers, customs agents, and many other forms of law enforcement to successfully test for the presence of narcotics using the Raman spectroscopy method.

Safer and Widespread Use
This is a much safer method of testing and is far more accurate than the old wet chemistry field test kit. On top of this, the device can test for the presence of multiple narcotics at the same time. Something the wet chemistry test cannot handle. The devices are currently in use by over 75% of the states and in more than three dozen other countries around the globe. LEOs all agree that these devices allow them to remove suspected drug offenders from the streets more quickly, prioritize their lab needs, and help to reduce costs, all at the same time.

An example of how much the handheld analyzer has already been proven to make a difference is the Phoenix, AZ police department. For decades the city has been plagued with huge case backlogs due to the ever-increasing number of cases and the spiraling costs of laboratory testing. All this on top of the many other challenges involved in successfully prosecuting most drug cases.

After successfully completing a pilot program, the city currently has 20 different drugs approved for field testing using the handheld unit. Not only has this helped to speed up the entire process from start to finish, but it has also helped increase the number of successful prosecutions and helped to reduce cost.

No More Chain of Custody Worries
One of the hardest parts of obtaining a successful conviction is maintaining the proper chain of custody of testing samples from the moment they are collected until they are tested at the lab. By instituting the use of handheld analyzers, every sample and the results are secured using a tamperproof data storage method. The only way the information can be deleted from the device is for it to be connected to the appropriate administrative software. The evidence collected is perfectly safe and can be introduced as evidence, helping to secure a conviction. When you look at the cost savings, the faster turnaround on results, and the increase in valid conviction rates, it won’t be long before all officers are equipped with these devices.

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The Increasing Need for More Women in Law Enforcement

While women do account for a small but growing segment of law enforcement across the country, the number still only sits at approximately 11.6 %. This is an increase of only 8% since the 1970s. The good news for women is that the need to hire more women into law enforcement has started to receive a significant amount of coverage. There are a number of benefits to significantly increasing the number of women behind the badge.

Woman Officers Are Not as Likely to Use Excessive Force
According to a recent article in The Atlantic, one of the two main reasons for the need to hire more female officers is that ” Women officers are less likely to use excessive force or pull their weapon. They are defendants in lawsuits far less often than men, saving municipalities millions in legal fees.” Something that has become more important than ever as police behavior has come under increasing scrutiny from both the public and the press.

Improved Community Relations Starts with Women Officers
According to a report published by the National Center for Women & Policing back in 2003, ” over the last 40 years, studies have shown that female officers are less authoritarian in their approach to policing, less reliant on physical force and are more effective communicators. Most importantly, female officers are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations before those encounters turn deadly.” This alone should be enough to increase the number of women officers across all levels of law enforcement.

Who Better Than Women Officer to Work with Violence Towards Women and Sex Crimes?
This is perhaps one of the most important areas of law enforcement where women officers may be able to make the biggest difference. For example, a woman who is the victim of a sexual assault is far more likely to talk to a female officer. But, unfortunately, in many departments, there simply aren’t enough female officers to go around, if there are any at all. Not only is this situation not going to help the victim, but in the long run, it does nothing to help the rest of law enforcement to complete our mission.

Why Aren’t There More Women in Law Enforcement?
There are any number of reasons why there are not enough women in law enforcement. They range from the unfortunate stereotypes all the way to recruitment and training programs that specifically target males.

No matter how you look at it, there has not been much of an effort to change recruiting efforts for decades, but the time has come for women police officers to take on a much larger role at every level of law enforcement, from local sheriffs all the way up to federal agencies.

The one thing those women who have made the struggle to the top levels of law enforcement would tell women who are interested in a career in law enforcement is, never give up, never let anyone tell that you cannot do something simply because of his gender.

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Will the Proposed Use-of-Force Bill in California Make Anyone Safer?

So, here we go, the California legislature is doing their “best” to address the growing number of officer involved shootings. At the same time, they are also making changes to the legal standards used to judge them. According to House Bill 931, entitled Police Accountability and Community Protection Act (PACP).

The PACP would make it illegal for a law enforcement officer to use “deadly” force unless it was deemed “necessary” under the bill. Sounds great so far, doesn’t it? After all, no police officer truly wants to shoot anyone unless they deem it necessary, do they?

Who Decides What “Necessary” Is?
This is the big question and one that seems to be outlined in the legislation. According to the bill’s authors and others, it goes something like this. If the officer’s use of deadly force is deemed after review, to be unnecessary by both them and their peers, then the officer could be prosecuted. In the event they are not imprisoned, it could still cost them years of hassle that can ruin them emotionally, physically, and financially. They further went on to say this is how we go about protecting the community.

This is not likely to make things any better at all. While hindsight is always 20/20, when you are in the heat of the moment, you have to base your decision on the sensory input and your interpretation of the situation of it unfolds. This could, in fact, lead to the decision to pull the trigger and use deadly force where reviewing the situation via dashcam video, eyewitness reports, and the officer’s own memory may possibly have led to a different decision.

The Supreme Court Weighs In
Fortunately, the Supreme Court Cases of Tennessee vs. Garner and Graham vs. Connor set a precedent regarding the use of any type of police force and how it should be evaluated. The most important passage in the Graham vs. Connor statement is, ” The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

Keep in mind that at the time, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the decision and that there weren’t any dissenting votes on the panel. This is very much like being handed the commandment from atop Mt. Sinai. Despite this, the powers at large in the California State Assembly have chosen to disagree with the decision put forth by the Supreme Court and have instead chosen to propose their own legislation.

The Other Side of the Problem
Under normal circumstances, any legislation that directly affects law enforcement in the state of California is normally drafted after consultations with a number of local police organizations such as the Police Officers Research Association of California. As of this time, no one has made any attempt to consult with these organizations. Leaving officers in limbo as to what type of reactions they face should they be involved in any type of officer involved shooting.

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Traffic Stops are Becoming More Dangerous Than Ever – Are You Ready?

What used to be a routine traffic stop has now become a very dangerous situation as more officers are being attacked and shot on the side of America’s roads every day. The trick to remaining safe is knowing what to do from the moment you hit the lights until the suspect pulls away or is driven away. Here are six steps you should take if you want to remain safe every time you pull another vehicle over:

Be Prepared for the Stop
• Start by keeping a very close eye on the suspect while you are calling the stop in.
• You need to be watching for attempts to conceal, dump, or destroy any evidence.
• Chose a tactically sound location to pull them over.
• Be sure the front seat of your patrol is clear of anything that might slow down or block an emergency exit.
• Keep a close eye on the suspect watching for attempts to flee.
• Be the first one out the door with your feet on the ground.

Be in Control
Taking control of the situation from the beginning is very important. It is up to you to make sure the situation does not spiral out of control from the outset. Use your interpersonal and communication skills to keep the situation de-escalated before angry words have a chance to turn into physical actions.

The Right Approach Tactics
The best thing you can do for yourself at this point is to make sure you are fully aware of the dangers. Position yourself in such a way as to not be in the way of passing traffic or being trapped between the cars. Take advantage of blind spots, the way you use your lights and mirrors to observe the occupants of the vehicle. This can give you more time to react if something goes wrong.

Never Reach into the Suspect’s Vehicle
You should never reach into a suspect’s vehicle, you put yourself at risk of being attacked by being dragged if the suspect decides to try and drive off.

Time is Always on Your Side
Time is always going to be on your side. There is nothing wrong with delaying the stop until the conditions are more favorable to a safe stop. If you are not comfortable, it’s okay to wait for a backup unit. For instance, you should never try to search a vehicle while at the same time trying to monitor the suspect. This exposes you to potential dangers, especially with a felony stop. Do everything by the numbers, it could save your life.

Beware of the Second Approach
Finally, be very aware of the second approach. While your first approach to the vehicle might have gone peacefully enough, never let this put you at ease. Doing so could cost your life. Try changing the way you approach, come up from the passenger side the second time, or work with your partner to swap out between who is the “Contact” and who is the “Cover” officer.

The most important thing you can do is NEVER treat any traffic stop as routine. Even the simplest of stops could be “the one” that gets you injured or killed. It is your job to uphold the law while at the same time to take every possible step to protect yourself.

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Today’s Police Departments Facing Recruitment Issues Like Never Before

By now every active or retired police officer across the nation, along with most citizens, is more than well-aware of the problems departments in every nook and cranny are having with recruiting and retaining officers.

Extreme Attrition Levels
If you watch the news today (and who doesn’t anymore), you must have seen the headlines screaming about Nursing shortages and the massive lack of teachers in the country. But, very little is being said about the drastic shortage police departments are experiencing in qualified law enforcement officers. The reality, is that the shortage of qualified LEOs is higher by percentage than either teachers or nurses.

For anyone who is interested in becoming a member of law enforcement, this drastic shortage means that depending on where you live, you should have no problem finding several to choose. However, for anyone interested in becoming a member of law enforcement, there are some very good reasons why there is such a shortage.

Low Pay
With so many more people earning at least undergraduate degrees, the starting salary of most LEOs no longer comes close to matching those being offered in other areas of employment. While this might be the case at the entry level, many who turn away from this career field fail to take into account the career possibilities, benefits, and retirement it has to offer.

Minor Infractions
As society becomes more tolerant of minor crimes and the use of marijuana is legal in some states and decriminalized in others, making it harder for departments to find qualified individuals as potential candidates. Simple things like using marijuana, which might be perfectly legal in a particular state will keep anyone from employment in the field of criminal justice.

Too Many Video Games
Today’s youth is far more obsessed with a sedentary lifestyle involving playing video game, online gaming, watching TV, pretty much anything but being active. This has led to an epidemic of obesity and low levels of physical fitness. When you consider how rigorous the average day in a law enforcement officer’s duty cycle requires a very high level of physical fitness. Finding people who meet the necessary standards is becoming increasingly difficult, further reducing the number of available candidates.

Poor Credit
Most departments run a background check that includes a credit report. Although simply having a low credit score may not be cause to decline an applicant, other issues can. These might include an extreme debt to income ratio where the person’s income would not be sufficient to cover his debts. They can also include a person who has multiple accounts in collections.

The Early Bird
To anyone who is interested in the field of law enforcement or criminal, the best things they can do to ensure they are a suitable candidate, is to plan ahead. This means avoiding the pitfalls of “legal” pot, exercising, working out, eating healthy, and of course keeping your credit and finances in good shape. Advice to those currently in law enforcement can and should pass on to the children and anyone else they know who is considering law enforcement.

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Is This Still a Thing?

There for a little while it seemed like you couldn’t turn on the news without hearing about a fast food worker refusing to serve a police officer. For a while, the problem seemed to have quietened down, rude signs went away, and no one was refused service. But, that ugly old snake seems to be raising its head again, albeit we hope for a much shorter time.

Dateline Sumiton, Alabama
It seems like two employees at a Little Caesars Pizza restaurant refused to serve one of the local police officers. Officer Ronnie Phillips of the Dora PD with 20 years in law enforcement and a Navy veteran posted his unpleasant experience on Facebook. It seems that Phillips was on his way home from work wearing his uniform and driving his official vehicle when he pulled up to the drive through window. At this point two female employees refused to take his order or his money.

Phillips posted this comment on Facebook, “My family and I have been coming here since they opened several years ago!!!! I have NEVER in my entire life done anything, don’t know that I’ve ever even seen these females before. I can assure u I will never come back to this store!!!! People tell police that we are supposed to be thick skinned and not let stuff get to us!!!! It just…… well honestly PISSES ME OFF!!!”

An Immediate Investigation
An immediate investigation was launched by Little Caesars Corporate offices resulting in the immediate termination of the two female employees in question. Jill Proctor, Little Caesars Corporate Communications Manager, told Fox News, ” Two employees did refuse service to the police officer. We don’t tolerate this. We are proud to serve those who tirelessly serve us, and we always strive to do our best.”

Little Caesars then treated the entire Dora PD to free pizza as a way to show their appreciation and support. Then they went a step further by offering free pizza to every LEO current and retired in the Birmingham metro area. The response was overwhelming, Proctor stated, ” We enjoyed serving hundreds of law enforcement officers and their families that day!”

Sadly, Not the Only One
The trend is back and definitely seems to be on the rise as those we are sworn to serve and protect continue to turn their anger on us. Consider these three recent examples, in Florida a McDonald’s employee “feigned disgust” and refused to serve a police officer, a second McDonalds employee in Virginia was fired after refusing to serve a police officer, and a few months ago a Dunkin Donuts employee in NYC told two NYPD officers that he “doesn’t serve cops.”

Is this trend going to continue? It seems that the more strained the overall mental status of the country becomes; the more people are looking for ways to vent their anger. Unfortunately, as most of you are only too aware, these same people expect you to come to their aid when they are robbed or assaulted. What can you do, respond just as if they were any other citizen in town. There is a an old adage that goes, “You can attract more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”, it’s a little like the old smother them with kindness idea. Perhaps one day people will no longer behave in this manner and will once again appreciate those who put themselves in harm’s way every time they go to work. Until then, there are plenty of other places to grab a cup of coffee or a burger.

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How Can Your Department Justify the Use of a Drone?

Life is kind of funny, depending on how you look at it. When it comes to asking your local citizens how they feel about the purchase and use of a drone or UAS (unmanned aircraft system). As for initial expense, no one really complains. But, when it comes to actually deploying and using a drone this seems to be a much bigger issue. Ranging in size from a pack of cigarettes up to large military craft, these devices are equipped with a camera that streams in real time. This is where the problem comes in.

We Value Our Privacy

Here in the U.S., we have enjoyed more freedom from government surveillance of any kind than just about any other country in the world. We value this privacy and will literally kill to defend it. The problem is the average citizen is afraid (and in some cases rightly so) that they are being watched, even when they are not doing anything wrong.

But let the drone fly over their backyard and the phones at the local P.D. with angry people screaming about being recorded their rights being violated. So how do you overcome such concerns? After all, no one complains when the drone helps find a lost child or a senior with Alzheimer’s disease who has wandered off, so what’s the deal?

Explain the Benefits

One of the best ways to turn the opinion of your local citizens is to host a series of Town Hall type meetings open to everyone. Explain that using a helicopter to search costs thousands of dollars, not to mention the multi-million-dollar cost of the aircraft, paying a pilot, and so forth. Drones cost less to buy than two hours’ worth of flight time. The helicopter should be reserved for taking supplies and personnel to the location.

The UAS requires an officer with specialized training, but this cost far less than getting a commercial pilot’s license. To be sure, the UAS has limited uses in comparison to the chopper, but each has its uses. They are often the ideal tool to help search for a lost person, or as the case was in Florida to catch a fugitive who was hiding in the swamp using a thermal imaging camera.

Fire departments can also use a drone to help them track wildfires in order to better direct resources, including law enforcement officers in order to better protect everyone in town. Officers can use the video feed from the UAS along with a grid map to help them sweep more accurately through buildings, reducing their risk of being shot or killed.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the more benefits of using a drone as part of your department’s efforts to make the town a safer place to live, the more likely you are to turn the tide of opinion. Keep in mind that no matter how hard you try and how obvious you make it that your town should have had a drone years ago, there will always be those who you will never convert. Focus on those who are willing to see the benefits far outweigh any risk of abuse or invasion of privacy.

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Body Cams On or Off?

In light of many recent events, many people are calling for law enforcement officers to be required to turn their body cams on and leave them on while they are on duty. Those calling for this believe it to be an excellent way to detect incidences of misconduct or corruption and in many cases to deter them. However, the majority of law enforcement departments and officers believe, this idea to be significantly flawed.

There are a number of reasons why including:

  • If the camera cannot be turned off, then it is quite capable of capturing private conversations of anyone within earshot.
  • If the camera cannot be turned off, it will capture video footage of citizens going about their daily lives.
  • If the camera cannot be turned off, it will capture private conversations with citizens who wish to tell LEOs where criminals are located in their area.
  • If the camera cannot be turned off, it can also capture sensitive conversations between officers regarding tactics being used to capture criminals
  • If the camera cannot be turned off, it may capture privileged conversations between attorneys and their clients.
  • If the camera cannot be turned off, it could capture images of victims, child crime victims, or images of citizens caught in compromising or undignified positions.
  • If the camera cannot be turned off, it could capture images of things like the officer going to the bathroom, talking to their loved ones on cell phones, even eating lunch.

When you look at all the images or audio recordings that could inadvertently be captured in an officer’s body cam cannot be turned off, it truly brings into question the intelligence of leaving them on all the time. Chances are pretty good that those who are loudly calling for body cams to be on at all times while an officer is on duty, obviously haven’t given much thought what they might capture incidentally.

Having an LEOs body cam on the entire time he or she is on duty could potentially compromise the privacy of the average citizen. At the same time, it is sure to compromise the privacy of the officer who can’t even turn his cam off so that he can go to the bathroom without it being filmed.

A Legitimate Concern

With all the concern over privacy, we still have to look at the distinct possibility that an officer might be tempted to turn his cam off while he is engaged in some form of nefarious activity such as misconduct. There is also the possibility of the camera being turned off and not capturing important footage that could be used to prove an officer or citizen’s guilt or innocence.

To date, the majority of police departments do not require their officers to leave their body cams on full time. Their use is still voluntary, at least until the Federal Government makes a final decision as to when they can be used or if they can, in fact, be left on without violating current privacy laws. In the meantime, they are definitely making a big difference in conviction rates and the number of officers being improperly accused and found innocent.

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A Sign of the Times

A recent report stated that a number of South Carolina State Troopers have started buying their own high-powered rifles and using them to replace the standard issue state-issued shotguns that tend to be less than lethal. Could things really be this bad in the state of South Carolina? The simple fact is that no matter what state you live in, violent crime (especially those against LEOs) is getting worse.

To make things even more interesting, the state’s Department of Public Safety has asked the State Legislature for $500,000 to help pay for enough AR-15 rifles to equip all state troopers. They say the purchase of these rifles has the potential to save many lives, especially in the event of a mass shooting in the state.

It’s True
According to Highway Patrol, Commander Chris Williamson has recently confirmed that a number of front-line troopers have been calling for more high-powered rifles such as the AR-15 in the last couple of years. In fact, approximately 50 officers have purchased their own AR-15s and were employing them in their vehicles instead of the standard issue shotgun.

So, the average AR-15 costs approximately $1,000 in comparison to the average shotgun that costs about half the price. But, should cost really be a deciding factor when it comes to protecting our brothers and sisters in law enforcement? While cost has to be factored in, what the average law enforcement officer may have to face on any given day, a shotgun may or may not be the best choice.

Rule Change
A recent change in S.C. Highway Patrol policies now allow troopers to bring their own rifles to work with them. However, the rifle must meet department standards and the trooper must complete an eight-hour course on the weapon put on by the department. This means that instead of being stuck with a shotgun that holds six shells and four in their pouch, officers now have access to a rifle that holds 30 rounds and can carry a total of three magazines. This gives them a total of 90 rounds with which to do his job.

To date, the agency has managed to equip 150 officers with high-powered rifles for use by their emergency response teams. The new budget request is for the purchase of 535 Sig Sauer M400 rifles. These will be used to equip the rest of the troopers who will also be required to take the initial 8-hour course and then an annual 4-hour refresher course.

Commander Williamson states that these rifles are more accurate at longer distances and that the spread from a shotgun shell could lead to innocent bystanders being wounded. The good news is that to date, none of the South Carolina State Troopers who have been equipped with the new high-powered rifles have yet to be involved in any type of incident where they have had to use them. However, Williamson states that his troopers “can definitely go in there and get the job done.”

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