The use of social media has presented a very real issue for law enforcement departments as it blurs the line between what’s private and what’s public. This has caused many police departments to dictate exactly what and what is not appropriate online behavior for police officers. We already wrote about common sense guidelines for police officer Facebook use, but this gives you an idea about what police departments require.
Police Department Guidelines for Social Media
- Police departments don’t take ‘public’ vs ‘private’ privacy settings into consideration when looking at an officer’s social media use – They expect officers to recognize that there is always the potential that what they write could be seen by the wrong people.
- Officers can share their opinions as private citizens – police officers can discuss social issues on public forums, provided they’re not revealing any information about a case, and that they show no association to their association to the police department. This means that they can’t share a public comment if they have a profile photo that shows they’re a police officer.
- Officers cannot comment on anything related to an ongoing investigation – while this always applies to behavior online or offline, putting it in writing is considered a worse offense.
- Officers can never make racist or offensive comments, or talk about fellow officers negatively – either of these things are in opposition to the code of ethics of most police departments.
- Police email addresses cannot be used for any social media use – this means officers cannot use their department email addresses to sign up for a social media account, and it shouldn’t be entered for any public posting that is not work-related.
- Police should watch who and what they “like” on Facebook – any activities that can be seen as supporting a controversial figure or opinion should be avoided.
- Avoid using ‘location’ services – it could compromise the safety of officers, even when off-duty.