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Law enforcement social media policy

A Social Media policy is essential for any agency because it can be used to encourage online participation among officers and staff as well as lay the foundation for how to get them started. By offering guidelines in the form of a social media policy, officers can know what’s expected and that it’s o.k. to get involved. One Chief of Police in Nebraska has embraced social media tools in his agency and recently created a social media policy for his department. Chief John Stacey says he wants a policy in place so his employees know that he encourages them to interact electronically “for the good of the department and citizens a long as they’re aware that common sense is warranted when online”. So he is taking a proactive approach to what he refers to as “overwhelming changes in communications”.

The Bellevue Police Department is committed to ensuring all portions of the community can contact, interact and consult with their police department. Newspapers, TV and radio do not reach the majority as assumed by many. By recognizing the potential of reaching a larger sector through all forms of media enables a higher degree of transparency and enhances our service capability.
~Chief John Stacey

As an overview, all law enforcement social media policies should address what any social media policy should address as well as include things that are more important because of the expectations of law enforcement officers to adhere to higher standards. All general social media policies include:

  • 1. taking personal responsibility for the content a person publishes,
  • 2. identifying oneself in all transactions,
  • 3. using disclaimers to absolve the department of responsibility,
  • 4. respect for the audience, and
  • 5. being factual.

Additionally, all standard social media policies address

  • 6. copyright,
  • 7. fair use, and
  • 8. privacy.

Because cops are made to adhere to a higher moral standard and because there’s an inherent fear among cops about new technology and change, but also because so much benefit can be realized by law enforcement agencies by using social media tool, extra emphasis is needed in some areas of a good social media policy. Law Enforcement specific policies should also address: 1. extra emphasis on integrity, 2. extra emphasis on the use of disclaimers, 3. extra emphasis on stating one’s identity as a member of the agency, 4. distinguish between department-sanctioned social media tools and those that are not sanctioned by the department, 5. competence and knowledge about any social media tool one engages in, 6. extra responsibility on the part of the command staff and 7. an offer to provide training to alleviate fear and provide a comfort level with using the technology.

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