SM Policy

Ethical considerations with the use of technology by law enforcement

This is the first in a series of articles that will focus upon law enforcement personnel’s use of technology and the implications it has for both the employees and their agencies.  The focus of these articles is on potential employee misconduct and its prevention through education and training.

Over the last several years, a tremendous emphasis has been placed upon policy development relating to law enforcement employees’ use of technology particularly social media.  Policy development is critical for agencies to ensure that they provide employees with clear guidelines while also ensuring their ability to run efficiently. Many agencies have or are currently developing social media policies as well as other technology policies.  These policies will need to be regularly modified and adapted as the courts provide legal direction and new technology emerges.

Developing a clear and legally defensible departmental policy performs two primary functions.  The first is to clearly outline to employees the rules and regulations.  The secondary function of a departmental policy is to address employee misconduct.  Historically the vast majority of law enforcement employees will conform to departmental policies.  However when policies are unclear, changed without proper notice, and involve employees off duty conduct, there is a greater likelihood that they will either intentionally or unknowingly violate a policy.

Policies that involve technology and social media are often times very technical, need regular revision and can regulate an employees conduct off duty.  For these reasons, there is a very real need for meaningful training on the ethical use of technology, applicable policies and the consequences to the employees and agencies with inappropriate use of technology.

As trainers will attest, law enforcement employees want to understand the benefit and consequences from the training they receive.  By discussing the technology being used both on and off duty, explaining potential ethical pitfalls and the scope of departmental policies, agencies can be preventive rather than reactive when dealing with employee’s use of technology.

As a training manager I understand the challenges of law enforcement training.  Law enforcement agencies face shrinking training budgets, cuts in training staff, perishable skills training mandates, state mandates and the need to provide training in a variety of skill sets.

Faced with these obstacles, it is important to develop and implement training in a variety of formats that will ensure the greatest retention and impact upon employees.  Training formats, allotted time and the method in which it is delivered varies greatly from agency to agency.  We have all been to those courses that provide a one size fits all mandated training format.   Students are provided with an 8-hour training plan take back to their agencies and implement.   While great in theory if this isn’t realistic within the constraints of the individual agency the end result is often that no training is provided.

The training should be developed to meet the needs of the individual agency.  Time frames allocated for training can vary from one to eight hours.  Formats can include roll call modules, weekly training cycles, annual officer training, etc.

The focus should be on quality training that will emphasize the new and wide reaching effects of technology and social media usage for officers in both their personal and professional lives.  I look forward to your thoughts in the coming months as we discuss a variety of topics related to law enforcement employees’ ethical use of technology.

Sgt Nathan Steele, West Sacramento Police

Nathan Steele is a Sergeant with the West Sacramento Police Department where he has worked for the last 16 years.  As one of his current duties he created and runs the Police Departments Social Media program.  In addition he is an Adjunct Professor for the Los Rios Community College District teaching courses in the Criminal Justice Division.  Nathan has 14 years of experience as a Law Enforcement Trainer in a variety of fields.  Nathan holds both a Bachelors and Masters Degree from CSU Sacramento and is a graduate of the California POST Master Instructor Program.  Nathan has created a first of its kind 1 day and 3 day California POST certified courses on the Ethical Use of Technology by Law Enforcement.  Nathan travels throughout the State of California providing training to officers and their agencies to educate, prevent and mitigate the damage caused by inappropriate use of technology by law enforcement employees.

Nathan can be reached at or 916-529-9498



The Toronto Police Service Launches Social Media Program

Law enforcement agencies worldwide watch as the Toronto Police Service kicks it up a notch.

For two months last winter, I had the honor of working side-by-side with members of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) onsite at the headquarters in Toronto, to develop the Service’s social media strategy. Since turning in my proposed strategy and recommendations at the first of the year, the TPS has continued to move forward by affirming the recommendations in the report, communicating in a final report and presentation to the senior commanders, working with in-house talent on web-site redesign, creation of other design elements and finalizing policy/procedure through the various stages of approval. They have arrived at a point in time where they’re implementing the strategy and the rest of the world gets to see what they’ve been up to all these months. This Wednesday, July 27th, the TPS will officially launch its social media program.

When it comes to social media use in policing, the Toronto Police Service is already highly regarded as one of the most forward-thinking law enforcement agency users of interactive digital tools in the world, especially for community engagement, but also crime prevention and investigation. The TPS named its first social media officer in April of 2010 with the appointment of Constable Scott Mills to that role. Mills had come off of years of experience promoting Crime Stoppers and legal graffiti art in social media. Coupled with the talents of Sgt Tim Burrows in traffic, the TPS was well on its way to earning the respect of law enforcement worldwide.

Deputy Chief Peter Sloly

Then, a little over a year ago, Peter Sloly was named Deputy Chief. Sloly was hearing more about social media and was well versed on what Mills and Burrows were doing, and he started to pay even closer attention. “First of all, front line cops bought into it so it must make sense. It’s bottom up, not top down. Here two cops with different approaches had found the same levels of usability for the platforms,” stated Sloly and added, “Scott was in the deep end going deeper. Tim came in later and took a year or two. But around the same time Scott became a super user, they arrived at the same point. It was then that things began to crystallize for me.”

Sloly and about five of what he called his “most risk-averse” people attended the first SMILE Conference in Washington. That was April, 2010. After the conference, he gave those same risk averse people a chance to convince both himself and Chief Bill Blair that social media was a world in which the TPS should not go. But that didn’t happen. Instead they too began to come around to seeing that there are benefits to using social media and they said so, to the Chief.

Deputy Sloly realized then that the TPS’ social media program wasn’t so much a program, but rather the very successful efforts of a handful of people. He wanted it to make it bigger and he wanted to add structure and governance. After a thorough RFP process, LAwS Communications was fortunate to be selected. At the kick-off meeting in his office, Sloly said to me, “we’ve been well served by our in-house experts, but I need you to back us up and get the entire service on the same foundation.” He gave me a team of about 10 people from across the Service and gave us nine big goals and ten short weeks to get it all done.

The nine goals:

  • To establish an external social media strategy for Corporate Communications;
  • To make suggestions on website redesign;
  • To create and make recommendations for using social media to improve internal communications;
  • To identify other areas of the Service that would benefit from leveraging social media;
  • To create a training module;
  • To create an ongoing support system for officers engaged in the use of SM;
  • To evaluate and create a social media communications policy/procedure in order to ensure sound governance is employed;
  • To create a plan to measure the Service’s effectiveness at using social media;
  • To develop a marketing campaign that would highlight the Service’s social media strategy.

The Launch

On July 27th, the TPS will hold a media event to announce the launch of the social media program. On that day, the first group of TPS members to have been trained will have completed their course and will be set up with corporately branded social media profiles and be given the go ahead to represent the TPS to the public on social media. Much of the first class consists of corporate communications personnel so the numerical increase in profiles will be small given that most of them were already on-line. But seven more training sessions to follow will be completed by November 5th, culminating with the vetting of a total of 177 members from 27 Units, including 17 divisions and 9 community consultative groups, all representing Canada’s largest Metropolitan police service. Every profile will adhere to strict guidelines prescribing the look and design of the profile as well as profile content. In early 2012, a whole new set of training will commence to bring even more members on board.

The TPS will also begin to unveil its new website. Using all in-house talent the TPS has begun to create a new site architecture that will be more intuitive to the end user. In the beginning we’ll see the new design and the TPS social media profiles will be highly visible. Meaghan Gray is the Information & Issues Manager in the Corporate Communications Office at the TPS and has spearheaded the social media effort for the past year. She explained, “Another significant change that people will notice is that we will feed of all our social media on the website. Once people get up and running they’ll all be fed through the main page of the Internet site… the latest video, latest Facebook postings, everything. As opposed to now where it’s just the icons.”

A big part of the training each member will undergo covers the TPS social media policy. The TPS’ in-house term for policy is “procedure”. The creation of the procedure was a complex process in and of itself. It had to be inline with all other corporate procedures as well as national and provincial law officer codes of ethics. Deputy Sloly was adamant throughout the process that without proper governance the project would never win the approval of Chief Blair and other executive staff.

The TPS team also created a procedure for investigative use of social media. While in the beginning it was made clear that investigations was not part of the project, it soon became clear to key players that it was essential to address that part of the operations as well because its intertwined with communication activities, so investigations was added. The final report also recommended the creation of a cyber-vetting policy to govern the investigation of new members. The IACP commissioned PERSEREC report on “Creating a Cyber-Vetting Strategy” was supplied as an appendix and proved immensely useful to Gray. “I literally went home and highlighted each piece I thought we could use and it went together into a procedure just that easily”, she said.
To support the procedures, the Corporate Communications office will be the primary office to conduct ongoing informal monitoring of all TPS-branded social media profiles. Gray explained, “we’ll have a library of all social media profiles and will watch them for inappropriate or incorrect content or any that’s riddled with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. It’s not going to be a big brother is watching approach, it’s meant to identify the need for ongoing training and mentoring from our office.”

The Discovery and Design Process

With team members selected from across the TPS, each bringing to the table a unique perspective, weekly (on average) team meetings were held to achieve the various goals. Team member Christine Mercier is a Legal Clerk in the Legal Services Department. She pointed to the importance of having all areas of the TPS represented, “These different perspectives, though they made the process lengthy, were very insightful. I feel that is was important to be as inclusive when developing a strategy for an organization with diverse needs and concerns.” The team conducted 7 weeks of discovery with members across the service, including in-person interviews, surveys, focus groups, environmental scans, continuously gathering input and creating an atmosphere of open-dialog, transparency and resulted in a great deal of buy-in from within.

TPS Video Services Producer Martin Blake said it was truly a team effort, “Through this transformative process of engagement, we have no only invited the public to engage us, but have also enhanced our own internal processes, roles, and functions. We now have more productive and meaningful interactions with the communities and individuals we serve, and have also increased our self-awareness as an agency, enhanced our service delivery, and increased our efficiency.” Blake is also serving on an internal communications improvement committee that had some overlap with the social media project.

In the end, we designed a strategy that called for a three-phased rollout, potentially occurring over 18 months and eventually including every Unit in the Service, even homicide and sex crimes will be included. The recommendations were all accepted but modifications were made to some and the schedule as originally designed has been altered for some aspects of the program. For example, a total of six blogs across the TPS were suggested. For technical (platform) reasons, the blogs have been delayed. The first we are likely to see is the transfer of the TPS newspaper, The Badge to a blog. The Traffic Services blog, which already exists, will likely be expanded to include the 17 traffic officers from the divisions and we may one day even enjoy a TPS Crime Blog with contributions from every area and every type of crime, among other blogs.

Success is inevitable

The signs all seem to indicate that the TPS will be highly successful in its efforts to integrate the use of social media. The key reasons I believe it will achieve success are that it has strong leadership and buy-in at top levels, it has provided for strong governance, as well as change management integration within the project and the TPS has realistic expectations.

The man at the helm is a realist. He’s a leader with a vision and he possesses the willingness to question the way things have been and look ahead at how they could be. And, like many Chiefs, he’s a risk-taker.

But most importantly Deputy Chief Sloly understands that social media isn’t the utopian answer to cure what ails policing. He does however, understand that it can have a serious impact, if employed strategically, on issues like the fallout from cuts in staffing and/or public trust issues, for examples. As he likes to say, it’s no silver bullet, “But we’re going to have this incredible array of tools that give us far more options to deal with public safety and public trust. Social media enables us to do old business in newer ways. We still have to do old business.” Sloly is also keenly aware that citizens want to engage with police in social media and they want to be talked with rather than at, which is something of a culture change for the thin blue line, “Getting police culture to understand this thing comes with the necessity for some very very strong admissions as to where the weaknesses of our [police] culture lie,” he added.

The TPS process has also allowed for the change management that is necessary to be part of the process. Early in the discovery phase, we held a one-day retreat with a professional facilitator including between 25-30 members of the Service to talk about the potential of social media use within the TPS. Similar to what he did with the “risk-averse” group mentioned above, Deputy Sloly gave the people gathered there permission to reject the entire notion at the end of the day. Instead, we created greater buy-in. The two-month long discovery phase served to create even greater buy-in as we had dialog with the stakeholders. So much so, that in the months since, upon hearing of the project, others have asked to be included if they hadn’t been, according to Gray.

Constable Mills, who is well known to become frustrated when others don’t move at his pace, called the process “painstakingly in slow motion” but acknowledged that the time taken to educate everyone involved has paid off, “This is a significant accomplishment, and has been called a ‘cultural revolution’ by some of those involved. The payoff and potential for increased community safety in Toronto and worldwide is well worth the time and effort,” he said.

Strength of governance is key and the TPS has all the pieces in place ie: three procedures (communications, investigations, cyber-vetting) to give guidance to the practitioners and a monitoring process as well as an open-minded culture of encouragement rather than discouragement.

The TPS team members in charge of the project from the Deputy Chief on down also understand that flexibility is paramount to success. Anybody who uses social media to any degree has learned that change is inevitable and one must be ready. The fact that, with few exceptions, they are all using the tools themselves speaks volumes to their ability to embrace this notion. But they know too that there will be bumps in the road and that the program will need tweaks along the way. They’ve faced several hurdles already and have overcome them, such as having to abandon the original intention to furnish their people with smartphones due to budget constraints. But they didn’t let that or any other issue kill the project. Their expectations are soundly grounded in reality.

Law enforcement around the world has taken note of the Toronto Police Service’s social media successes and now more than ever will be watching the TPS as they continue to break new ground for law enforcement, all in the name of accountability, transparency and customer service. Dozens if not hundreds of agencies across the globe are doing a good job with social media. But the TPS is kicking it up a notch or two by applying a practical yet pioneering strategy and thereby adding real substance to the words “to serve and protect”.

If you want to check out the launch of the TPS social media project, follow #TPSSMLaunch or log in to one of two video streams. The event will be streamed on the Toronto Police Ustream account as well as on on the Toronto Police LiveStream account on July 27 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. for a live video stream of the event and the opportunity to ask Deputy Sloly a question about the project.

Facebook Secure Browsing for Officer Safety

And the implications for department social media policy

Early this year Facebook offered users the ability to use the sight a bit more securely with “secure browsing” (https) or SSL encryption, as Facebook said, “whenever possible”. It’s important to enable https, otherwise, any hacker sharing the same public wifi can easily infiltrate your social media accounts. But for police officers concerned about their own privacy and safety, there’s more to it.

Ethical hacker James F. Ruffer III of Unibox explained that with a plugin like Mozilla Firesheep anyone can BE YOU on sights like Facebook, WordPress, FourSquare, and Twitter The one protection a user has is enabling secure browsing with the https setting. In a recent post on the Social Media Security blog , he explained how with access, a hacker can control every aspect of the victim’s Facebook profile, including the victim’s Facebook Pages. He added, “Once I am in, the victim has to check secure browsing, log out, and log back in,” he said. “That’s the only way to destroy my attack vector.” Firesheep is a Mozilla Firefox browser extension and utilizes packet sniffing methods to intercept unencrypted cookies or sessions.

This technique is known as “sidejacking” and although the hacker doesn’t have control over the victim’s account, they have mirrored what the victim is doing from his or her browser onto theirs. Due to the high level of attention this security flaw demanded, a Mozilla Firefox plugin called Blacksheep was quickly developed to detect if Firesheep is being used on a network, Blacksheep tries to create “false” sessions IDs on a network to see if the sessions are being hijacked.

Hackers  can also use Firesheep to extend their access to Social Media Management platforms and still get simultaneous control of all the victim’s profiles from there, even if the https secure browsing is enabled.

Detective Constable and forensics investigator Warren Bulmer of the Toronto Police Service is an expert on Facebook security. He explained in most cases the victim wouldn’t know their account has been compromised unless the hacker makes a change. “As long as the person doesn’t do anything they could spy all day long. They can take digital pictures of your screens and collect intelligence all day long. There’s no way to know that they’re there.”

A big part of the problem is Facebook itself. Its new features are implemented automatically, so that users have to actively change the features, which, in many cases, involve user data. Facebook isn’t trying to allow hacking, rather than allow themselves the ability to collect mass amounts of user data. However, the tactic does leave security holes.

Recently the security firm Sophos issued an open letter to Facebook asking for three things, one of which was for https security to be turned on by default. When Facebook introduced the feature, the social network posted on its blog, “We hope to offer HTTPS as a default whenever you are using Facebook sometime in the future.”

Until Facebook makes secure browsing the default setting, know this:

  1. To turn on https secure browsing, in the upper right corner pull-down menu, go to “Account Settings”, then “Account Security”. The https checkbox is the first option.
  2. Some games you play or applications that you might install will turn off https. You should be notified when this happens, be sure to re-enable secure browsing afterwards.
  3. With https security turned on, your use of Facebook will likely run more slowly. It’s a small price to pay.
  4. Never trust any social network to guard your privacy. Guarding your information and therefore your safety and career security is your responsibility.

Regardless of whether Facebook enables the security setting by default or not, law enforcement officers need to take extra care to secure their profiles. Ruffer recommends using an Ironkey, an inexpensive USB device that guarantees secure browsing. Secure data plans like 3G, or a portable hub such a Verizon’s “Mifi”, can be pricey, but may be the best option. Otherwise, avoiding public wifi is the best protection.

Bulmer cautions that there are things you should “just not do” from a public computer or on a public wifi. “In these Internet cafés or coffee shops, you have no idea what their network or someone else also using it is capturing. It would be nice to be able to say the restaurant or hotel is legit and they don’t keep information. The reality is, you really don’t know that. The safest method, if you really need to use these social networks is to do as much security as possible,” he said.

So what should this mean for department social media policy?

When someone leaves the department, does department policy spell out how their accounts are processed and closed so that any security breaches that may have taken place on those accounts are done away with? The first article on was an article on social media policy for law enforcement in August of 2009. In it, I called for requiring the people who use social media representing the department or in their personal lives to be competent with regard to how the platforms work. Social media is like anything else a law officer does at work, and it requires a significant amount of training to ensure this competence. Security issues like the one illustrated here reinforce the importance of this point. To this end, department policy should also require the pertinent security measures to help keep these breaches from happening in the first place.

Social Media Policy for Law Enforcement X 3

Social media policy in law enforcement is a hot topic and well it should be. No one can or should dispute that the importance of sound policy, and the need to guide law officers in proper behavior and procedure online, is huge. Just when you’re getting a handle on the elements of a good social media communication policy, and you’re thinking your social media investigations need to be covered by policy as well; if you’re vetting potential new officers on the Internet, you’ll need a third policy for cyber-vetting of new recruits too. I’m no HR professional, but the legal ramifications in this area could be gigantic. This post is an overview of some important considerations for all three social media policies.

Slightly less than a year I wrote for the first time on social media policy in law enforcement. Much of what should be in a law enforcement social media policy (copyright, fair use, truthfulness, and the like as covered in the original article) is in every good social media policy. I especially like the policies of the Air Force, IBM, and Intel. But while that’s true, there are several areas that are unique to law enforcement. These were also covered in my original article. I offer here a couple of new insights.

1. Communication Policy / General Use

I have added two items (#8 & #9) to the list of areas unique to law enforcement since writing the original article, but haven’t changed the rest.

  1. Integrity. Perhaps the most important part of everything a law enforcement agency does online or elsewhere is integrity. Agency participants in social media should be reminded that Integrity is the essential ingredient to using social media ethically. Agency employees should, therefore, be honest in their use of social media and maintain high regard for the public interest. All information disseminated should be absolutely accurate.
  2. Disclaimers. Because you may be giving your personnel the authority to comment on issues relating to the department, it’s imperative to emphasize the importance that officers, especially, state that what they write is their own opinion and not that of the department.
  3. Identity. Some bloggers work anonymously, using pseudonyms or false screen names. Law enforcement agencies should absolutely insist that in blogs, wikis or other forms of online participation that relate to the department or the city, or activities or issues with which the department is engaged; department employees use their accurate identity.
  4. Department-sanctioned tools. While it should be stated that the social media policy of the agency covers activity by agency employees on tools they may create on their own or those of others that they might contribute to, department-sanctioned tools should be governed more closely. Careful distinction needs to be made between on and off duty work online.
  5. Competence. Department employees, whether staff or sworn, should not use any social media tool unless they really understand how it works. Many of the problems with officers getting themselves into trouble happen on Facebook and often the officer(s) involved indicate they didn’t know Facebook worked the way it does. Make your staff responsible for assuring their competence online.
  6. Command Staff responsibility. Standard disclaimers, do not by themselves, exempt command staff officers from any special responsibility. By virtue of their position, they must consider whether personal thoughts they publish may be misunderstood as expressing opinions of the agency.
  7. Training. Provide social media training for your officers and staff. Once your policy is written, be sure to distribute it with conversations about departmental support for social media.
  8. What’s not o.k. to post. This may include things such as department identification (patches, insignia, officers in uniform) and sensitive information or any other information that could reflect negatively on the department.
  9. Implications on career. All violations of policy or misbehavior online could have detrimental effects on an officer’s career. But one that doesn’t seem obvious to all is the effect simply having a social media profile, even if there’s never a problem, could have on an officer’s future ability to perform undercover work. Tremendous care is warranted so than an UC officer can’t be intified online.

2. Cyber-Vetting Policy

  1. Notice and Consent

    • Informing applicants It’s absolutely essential to let applicants know that you’ll be conducting a search of their social networking profiles. Your policy should state that they will be told and at what point in the process they will be told. Some agencies don’t want to give them a lot of notice so the profiles don’t get altered, but surprising them altogether may not be fair.
    • Consequences of not giving consent Consent needs to be given to search a person’s online profiles, especially if the agency expects to search password-protected sites. The applicant should be told that not giving his or her consent could disqualify him or her from consideration.
    • Type of information investigator may collect Will it be ok for your agency to speak with the online friends of your applicants? Some people are really taken aback by this but is it different from visiting their neighbors? Define circumstances under which agency may contact online friends and otherwise define of the scope of the search, inform the candidate, and consistently apply it to all applicants.
  2. Quality Assurance & Training

    • Internet search training for investigators The world of online media is complex. Investigators need to understand the nuances of privacy settings, imposter pages, gathering and storing of evidence.
    • How they’re monitored
      What procedures are in place to make sure the investigator is operating professionally and securely?
    • Ongoing refresher training
      Because platforms like Facebook changes the rules regularly and because there are always new platforms of which you need to be aware, make sure the investigator attends training at regular intervals.
  3. Internet Search Practices

    • Who can conduct searches?
      The answer is definitely, positively NOT – “the intern”. That seems obvious to most but it’s happened. The procedure for determining personnel authorized to perform such searches needs to be defined as well as the ongoing method by which one will be qualified to remain authorized. Should this position be defined as sensitive and receive all the protections therein?
    • Outline expectation for notification of changes
      Do you want to go so far as to require employees to notify you of any changes to their online profiles, such as new profiles they might have?
    • Disclosure of blogs they own or on which they participate
      Consider making it policy that if an officer starts a blog or begins to contribute to one, s/he should disclose it first. Also state your position on the prospect of posting anonymously.
    • Email addresses
      Applicants should provide email addresses that they have used in the past. Law enforcement generally agrees an email address is an important search term. Issues here include the applicants memory of all email addresses, or those used for undercover or sensitive work.
    • Disclosure of online identity
      Many agencies are asking applicants to list current screen names and nicknames used online. What happens if they disclose bank account username/password (because it may be the same as that used for a social platform) and then something happens to that account? Or their identities are stolen. Can they come back and blame your agency?
    • Command Performance
      Many agencies are opting to have applicants open up their password-protected sites during the face-to-face interview so that decision makers can review online content during the face-to-face interview, sometimes without warning. Applicants should be afforded the opportunity to explain any online information.
    • Limited to a workplace computer
      Authorized personnel conducting Internet searches for employment or security clearance purposes may review online information from publicly accessible, unrestricted websites.
    • Use of applicants social security number in searches
      There are many inherent dangers to the practice of putting someone’s social security number in an online search. Doing so can make it viewable to others. It isn’t recommended to be done on social sites which index content.
    • Misrepresentation
      Circumstances under which misrepresentations will be made to obtain online information need to be defined. Besides being in potential violation of social network’s terms of service, this topic is controversial. You create fake profiles to catch pedofiles, but under what conditions, if any, would you consider creating a fake profile to investigate a potential employee
    • Wall-off
      Some law officers have indicated they feel that if someone discloses potential protected-class types of info online it’s equivalent to a waiver of their privacy. That doesn’t mean a judge would agree. A wall-off procedure needs to be in place to protect the applicant and the hiring manager regarding Internet search results pertaining to protected classes (e.g., age, sexual orientation, race, etc) so that the hiring manager doesn’t see information falling within the definition of protected class.
    • Criminal Evidence
      When/if criminal evidence is uncovered during a cyber-vetting procedure, what is done with the evidence?
  4. Monitoring & Reporting After Hire

  5. Some or all of the points in this section could also fall under the “general use” section above.

    • Ongoing monitoring
      Employees should be informed if it is the agency’s intention to monitor their activities online.
    • Conditions for ongoing monitoring
      In response to specific concerns, complaints, or information about an employee, organizations may conduct online searches to obtain additional information on that employee.
    • Reporting by peers
      Should an employee who becomes aware of an Internet posting or Web site that is in violation of the organization’s policies report the information to a supervisor. Are anonymous reports o.k?
    • Accountability
      Employees shall be responsible for ensuring that sensitive information is not posted on their family members’ social networking sites.
    • Rebuttal/Defense
      Employees should be given the opportunity to address anything negative found online. It could be the work of an imposter or an angry ex-spouse. Is the employee allowed to have a copy of the evidence?
  6. Application of Internet vetting findings

    • Employment decisions
      Hiring, retention, promotion, security clearances and disciplinary decisions, based at least in part on the results of an Internet search, must be based on established criteria and processes.
    • Security
      How are the results of Internet searches stored and protected? For your own protection as well as that of the candidates, establish conditions under which the results of your investigation is destroy or stored, and for how long. On the one hand, you may not want it around for liability reasons, on the other if you deny employment to someone, you may need the evidence to prove your negative decision was NOT discrimination.

3. Investigations Policy

I’m not a trained investigator but I offer a few points here only to the extent social media platforms are involved.

  • False identities
    Give proper consideration for the procedure by which you will obtain false identities and take into consideration the workings of each platform.
  • Department only equipment
    The use of department-only equipment which has no online identifiable ties to the agency. This is standard in any investigation but take special consideration for the use of mobile technology, especially geo-location enabled.
  • Training/Competence
    Always important. There’s always a new tool, sometimes a very simple one that will benefit your agency. Keep your investigators well trained and don’t underestimate the value of training by professionals who genuinely live in the world of social media. Any cyber-investigator knows how to put up a false profile, but examine whether your trainer really is up-to-date on the very latest technical developments in the social world. Include in your policy that training is to be provided and investigators need to take on responsibility to know what they don’t know and learn it. A good cyber-investigator stays up to date him or herself by tuning in social media blogs and other sources.
  • Proper documentation
    The technique of gathering of anything online should be treated with great care. How it was obtained, with date-stamp, in the chronological order it was obtained is of upmost importance. And, with social networks, the content itself changes quickly. Evidence needs to be gathered more quickly than may have otherwise been necessary, don’t lose sight of the need to document carefully.
  • TOS violations
    Some investigative activity is technically against the Terms of Service for social networking platforms. Know the TOS statements of the platforms you’re using and put into policy under what circumstances your agency will conduct activity which may otherwise be in violation of those TOS.

Three final thoughts:

In addition to the specific points above, there are some themes that transcend all policy development in social media.

  • Consistency
    One of the biggest arguments for social media policy is so that your agency can be sure that personnel are all treated equally. If you’re accused in court of discrimination in a hiring decision and you don’t even have a document to present that shows you intend to perform fairly for everybody, that’s a big piece of potential protection missing. Of course, actually practicing consistency goes hand in hand with saying you do so.
  • Training/Competence
    Training and competence are not the same. I regularly see and hear policy personnel saying training should be part of all policies. But just because training is provided, doesn’t mean the trainee is competent with the tools. I recommend putting the onus on the employee to be able to assure his or her thorough knowledge of the platforms s/he is on regardless of purpose. A great majority of the cases where an officer gets himself into trouble – especially on Facebook – with career ruining activity, could have been prevented if the players had better knowledge of how the platform worked. So provide the training, but include separately that they will held accountable and that blaming mistakes on not knowing it would happen won’t be tolerated.
  • Honor your agency’s culture
    No matter what you read or who you talk to, always honor the culture of your own organization when developing policy. If your agency doesn’t need to be overly restrictive and punitive with social media, especially with regard to how you expect sworn officers to behave when representing the department, you will know it. Moreover, the agency will benefit because the officers won’t feel like it’s just not worth doing because it’s too easy to get into trouble.

It’s a brave new world we live in. The main thing is to go forth without fear of these media. There’s more benefit than risk and sound policy will go a long way towards protecting your agency in the online world as well as allay fears that you’re not ready.

As with this or any other post on ConnectedCOPS, let me know your thoughts via the comment section below or get in touch any way you prefer.

“You Gotta Win With These Guys”

Tommy Lasorda addressed the CPOA

“You gotta win with these guys”, featured speaker and former Dodgers pitcher and manager, Tommy Lasorda repeated that phrase as he addressed the crowd at the California Peace Officers Association (CPOA) on May 24th. He was relating how he sometimes embellished the stories he told his players in order to motivate them to be champions. By the sound of it, the players not only believed every word he said, but the “stories” he told them often succeeded in getting them to believe in their indisputable success.

The CPOA, for the first time, ran dual tracks of training at this year’s annual training symposium. One of the tracks was made up of four sessions on social media in law enforcement (SMILE). The first one presented the lay of the land with two chiefs and one assistant chief from law enforcement agencies in California who are leading the way with SMILE. Chief Rick Braziel of Sacramento, Chief John Neu of Torrance and Assistance Chief Jason Benites of Oxnard related their agencies best practices with the new tools collectively referred to as “social media”. I was fortunate to have been asked to moderate. Each agency has its own formula that works for it. They talked about their successes as well as things that didn’t work and where they plan to go next. Chief Neu explained how his strategy in social media came from a survey of citizens who told them they want more information and increasingly they want the information digitally. Chief Braziel highlighted his internal communications and training platform built with Moodle and Assistant Chief Benites spoke proudly of Oxnard’s “Straight to You” program primarily made up of weekly video messages.

In another session, members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department delivered a terrific primer on investigations with social media tools. Showcasing the Detective Information Resource Center (DIRC) office, Sergeant David Poling and his colleagues discussed several case studies and took the audience through step-by-step how they were able to locate their suspect through persistent investigation of social media platforms including MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. DIRC provides its services to both the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and outside law enforcement agencies.

A third session designed to provide some basic online training suffered a setback when Internet to the entire hotel and beyond went out less than an hour before the session started. It didn’t come back online so Deputy Chief Paul Bockrath from Fairfield set me up with his aircard and the hotel offered up a small wireless hub which accommodated about 5 people. Others had aircards or went without. We made it work. Having the Internet go out at the most crucial moment is like bad weather at the game. If you can find a way, you continue to play, which we did. We were still able to cover the basics of Twitter, Facebook and Nixle messaging.

Another session was a fascinating discussion about legal issues with social media in the law enforcement workplace and how they relate to the development of social media policy for law enforcement. The panel included Chief Tim Jackman of Santa Monica, Captain Richard Lucero of Fremont, Sergeant Tom Le Veque of Arcadia, Officer Jeff Van Wick of Murrieta, Attorney Kevin Hancock from Lexipol and myself as moderator. It was a fairly comprehensive dialog about many court cases which have either resulted in a cop losing his job or being disciplined, or other cases which may drastically effect the LE workplace in another way. As a result, I was more than a bit worried that we’d leave the audience more trepid about social media use in law enforcement than anything.

There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens. ~Tommy Lasorda

Perhaps Captain Rich Lucero, made the most salient point at the end of the session. He pointed out that the Quon case (Ontario, California, Police) was just argued in front of the Supreme Court a few weeks ago, the high court’s opinion is not expected for a few months. The Quon case involves an officer’s personal use of a pager issued by his agency and his right to expectations of privacy. And yet, it’s already outdated because it’s about technology that is no longer widely used. “It’s pretty clear, we’re having to figure these issues out for ourselves.” Lucero said and added, “this technology is changing so fast, there’ll never be case-law that’s really relevant to what we face on any given day.”

Tommy Lasorda visits with Long Beach Chief and CPOA President Jim McDonnell

Tommy Lasorda certainly wasn’t the first person to play baseball, but just as certainly, he played and managed the game his own way. He was fearless, inventive, strategic, and had a lot of heart. His message to the CPOA attendees definitely spoke to leadership. It struck me that what he said applies to the current state of implementing social media tools into the law enforcement arena as well. With social media, there’s no manual, no rulebook and no historical evidence. There’s also no World Series of SMILE to win. But law enforcement stands to win big. We have to approach SMILE with the same courage, creativity, strategy and tons of heart as Lasorda exemplifies. Lasorda won more than he lost. In the world of SMILE, there’s far more to be won than lost. With SMILE, you gotta win with your guys (and girls) and you will. You can bet on it. I’m here to help get you in the game, hit a few homeruns and make SMILE’n champions out of you.

Tommy LaSorda is also known to have said, “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.” Throw the ball already, the bases are loaded.

Social Media Policy, the very Wide Gray Line

Day after day, your inbox is filled with various “client alerts” and legal updates. The topics may vary and will include legal opinions as well as interpretation of case law that are meant to give guidance to your Law Enforcement agency. Unfortunately, most of these alerts have been absent one particular but growing topic within our Law Enforcement community – Social Media. If you take the time to conduct a little research on the topic, you will find sites on the Internet that are filled with discussions and articles on the topic of Social Media and Law Enforcement. Websites like ConnectedCOPS, Social Media Five-0, and Cops 2 Point 0 are three I have found to be useful resources.

The California Peace Officers’ Association will be hosting their 90th Annual Training Symposium in Los Angeles, May 24-27, 2010. A good portion of the training at the CPOA Symposium will focus on the topic of Social Media and Law Enforcement. We will have the opportunity to take part in panel discussions and presentations that break down Social Media:

  • Social Media: What is it and Who is Using it?
  • Facebook, Twitter, and Nixle…Ready, Set, Go…
  • Social Media and Electronic Communication in the Workplace – A Legal Overview
  • The Changing Media and Technology Landscape for Law Enforcement
  • Using Social Media in Law Enforcement Investigations
  • And other Interesting Topics Dealing with Leadership

In general, Law Enforcement is behind the curve when it comes to the implementation and use of Social Media. Some of the biggest concerns that I have heard and read about are how do we police this, what policies do we implement, and what about liability? These questions are justified and are on the minds of chiefs and department leaders everywhere. While the common public use and acceptance of Social Media has exploded, our ability to keep up has been hampered by lack of case law, lack of tested use, lack of “known” expertise, and in my opinion – fear.

Lauri Stevens, founder of LAwS Communications and the ConnectedCOPS Blog, will be moderating the discussion panels on Social Media at the CPOA Symposium. I was honored to be asked by Lauri to participate on the panel dealing with the legal overview and policy development as an agency representative. Other panel members will include: Chief Tim Jackman, Santa Monica Police Department (CA), Captain Rich Lucero, Fremont Police Department, (CA), and Kevin Hancock, Lexipol LLC.

Our agency is in the process of implementing a Social Media policy. The Arcadia Police Department has adopted its policy manual based on recommendations from Lexipol. Lexipol recently offered a fairly straight-forward Social Media policy. There are a few areas of concern from my standpoint as an end user, and I am sure that Kevin Hancock will enlighten us with thoughts on Social Media from Lexipol.

This area of concern is ever changing and developing. It is incumbent on all Law Enforcement agencies to implement a Social Media policy. Even if there is no department buy-in and participation, I guarantee you that your personnel are participating in Social Media. What will you do when that one simple, seemingly innocent post by your employee, crosses the “line”? Do you even know what that “line” is? The panel that Lauri and the CPOA has assembled hopes to help answer that type of question and more for you. On behalf of the California Peace Officers’ Association, we hope to see you in Los Angeles for the CPOA 90th Annual Training Symposium.

CPOA Annual Training Symposium to Cover Social Media in Law Enforcement

The California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA) will be hosting its 90th Annual Training Symposium on May 24-27 in Los Angeles at the breathtaking new JW Marriott Hotel at LA Live. Core Value Leadership: Building Out from the Center is the theme. Is this building out from the center of our organizations or out from the center of our self? One cannot happen without the other.

CPOA in concert with Connected Cops will explore the hot topic of the year – Social Media and Electronic Communications. Lauri Stevens of LAwS Communications and Chair of Web Design & Interactive Media at The New England Institute of Art, will head up three of the presentations:

  • Social Media – What is it and Who is Using it? A presentation by Ms. Stevens will be followed by discussions by the following on the use of social media by their departments: Chief Rick Braziel of Sacramento PD, Asst Chief Jason Benites of Oxnard PD, and Chief John Neu of Torrance PD.
  • Social Media: A Hands-on Workshop. Bring your smart phone or your laptop with an air card and learn how to maximize your use of Facebook, Twitter and NIXLE.
  • Social Media and Electronic Communications in the LE Workplace: A Panel Discussion moderated by Lauri Stevens. Panel members include Chief Tim Jackman of Santa Monica PD, Capt. Rich Lucero of Fremont PD, Sgt. Tom LeVeque of Arcadia PD and Kevin Hancock of Lexipol.
  • Ms. Stevens is a nationally recognized leader in the realm of law enforcement’s use of social media…for community building, for investigations, and for inter- and intra-agency communications. will be the “guest blog” for the CPOA Annual Training Symposium. Future articles will appear here.

    Plan to attend these sessions and learn how you and your agency can benefit by greater knowledge and use of the various types of social media.

    Check out the details at

The C.O.P.P.S. Social Media Method™ for Cops

It’s my job to make sense of things in the world of social media so that law officers who want to use these tools can concentrate on being officers rather than having to be social media experts themselves. It’s no easy task even for me, a person who makes it her priority and considers it a big part of her job in higher ed. While I read everything I can find on the topic, I haven’t been able to find a succinct method, already created, that I would recommend for police.

Even Forrester Research’s method is problematic, at least for law enforcement. Forrester calls its method P.O.S.T. for “people, objectives, strategy, and technology”. The main reasons for which I won’t recommend it is because of what it leaves out. And that’s policy and schedule. Policy is an absolutely crucial element to law enforcement because it addresses a big part of the “how” and “why”. It’s crucial for business too, but I won’t go there. The other missing element is schedule, the “when”. Deciding what you want to do is a big part of the job, but knowing exactly when each element will happen, will go a long way towards keeping the plan manageable.

So I’ve developed my own social media method and I think it’s a good one. It’s easy to follow, isn’t missing key items and reflects exactly what I do when I’m working with clients.

The C.O.P.P.S. Social Media Method™ answers the who, what, when, where, why and how.

Citizens (Who)
Objectives (What)
Plan (Where & How)
Policy (How & Why)
Schedule (When)

1. Citizens. Regardless of any cool tool or social media method, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s all about your constituents, the citizens. Who do you want to communicate with? As you answer that question, remember to include those who you already are communicating with, and keep them on your radar. In your plan, include every demographic that’s important to your communication plan, whether you feel like you’re already communicating with them or not at all.

Your citizens are already talking about you. As you develop this part of your social media plan, listen to the key public figures in your community. Keep your ears open for mentions of your agency whether online or off. Go into online newsgroups and blog and run some Google alert searches to “hear” the mentions of your department.

Consider developing personas to represent the members of your target audience. Personas aren’t real people, they are demographic descriptions of the people in your audience. Sit down with your team and discuss the character traits of each persona. This will help you to understand their personalities, online habits, attitudes and opinions of your law enforcement agency specifically as well as law enforcement generally.

In my workshops with government employees in both the U.S. and Canada, the task of developing personas has proven to be the single biggest generator of conversation and deliberation. There’s more to it than you think. So do it! The process of developing personas affects every other step in this process. Take it seriously because it’s very helpful.

2. Objectives. As you develop this section, resist the urge to do anything other than to address the “what” in your goals. DO NOT worry about anything other than WHAT do you want do achieve.

Do you want to:
a. Build better relationships?
b. Raise awareness of your services?
c. Increase public safety?
d. Increase website traffic?
e. Inspire people to take action?
f. Raise funds?

To gain further insight, ask yourselves:
a. What attitudes define us and our issues?
b. What sites have the most activity related to my organization?
c. What kind of people do the most posting (and where)?
d. What other organizations are issues are these people connected to?
e. What kind of negative comments or misconceptions exists?
f. What are the positives?

You might discover:
a. Online communities you should join;
b. People you should engage;
c. Values you should promote;
d. Attitudes you should change;
e. Better understanding of your “brand” (reputation),

When you’re done examining your objectives, you should have a clearly defined message. Going forward, adhere to this message in all your online (and offline) dealings. Keep your message easy to grasp by people with short attention spans and keep yourselves focused on the message. You should by now have a really good handle on your target audience and at least have begun to determine what changes, if any, are needed in your agency’s communication strategy.

3. Plan. The four crucial parts of the plan are:
a. Technology
b. Content
c. Personnel
d. Training

I’m half tempted to call this step #3 “parts”. This is the nuts and bolts. What are the social media tools you’re going to actually deploy? What technology, software and hardware do you need, whether you already have it or not, to deploy. Think back to the personas you created in step 2. Figure out what social media platforms your constituents are using, and include them in the PLAN.

a. This is where you decide if you’ll be on Twitter (oh yeah) Facebook (most likely) a blog (quite possibly) YouTube (maybe) Bebo (Gang members in your world?) LinkedIn (your own professional life). There are several hundred more, depending on your target demographic(s) what part of the world you’re in, and your ultimate goals.

b. What content do you already have that you can reproduce? Do you need to create any? What are your ideas and goals and how do they relate to the tools? What’s your message?

c. One of the crucial parts to the plan is personnel. What people do you have? Don’t rely on the intern. The local college student might know how to register you on Twitter about 10 seconds faster than you could do it yourself, but s/he does NOT know your objectives like you do nor can an intern articulate your message at the same level of quality than you. Even if s/he could come close, s/he is leaving at the end of the semester. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let them in on it to learn the ropes. I’m all about that. Just stay in control. A really great role for an intern is to research the platforms your constituents are on, especially if they are their peers. Don’t underestimate the person-hours involved. Social media isn’t a “ten minutes a day” thing in spite of what you hear.

d. Take into account the staff person’s knowledge level. If you want success, make sure they’re technically competent, comfortable and trained. They also need the hours allotted to them to work the program and the desire to do so. Don’t underestimate the value of professional training. There are many online resources but they are best used as supplements to a good fundamental grounding provided with professional training.

4. Policy. EVERY law enforcement agency in the world should have a social media policy or should address it in its current communication/media policy. The agencies who never intend to deploy social media tools are the ones most in need of a policy.

As I wrote in an earlier article on the blog, “The Ingredients of a solid social media policy for law enforcement” all basic social media policies include such things as,
a. Taking personal responsibility for the content a person publishes
b. Identifying oneself in all transactions
c. Using disclaimers to absolve the department of responsibility
d . Respect for the audience
e. Being factual
f. Copyright
g. Fair use
h. Privacy

But policies specific to law enforcement should also include, at a minimum:
a. Integrity
b. Disclaimers
c. Identity
d. Department-sanctioned tools
e. Competence
f. Command Staff responsibility
g. Training
For more on the topic, see the ConnectedCOPS article on social media policy for law enforcement. I’ve been thinking lately that agencies need all the above within their policy for their communication program and another policy altogether for investigative practices. But I’m still working/thinking on that.

5. Schedule. The absence of a schedule can be the biggest reason humans begin to feel overwhelmed and projects get derailed. Do yourself a favor and create a schedule depicting what “parts” (go back to #3) will be rolled out when. Factor in required training, technology procurement and etc. Start by rolling out the simpler pieces of the plan. Ask yourself where you want your agency to be in three / six / nine months and work back from that. If you’re a project manager by training, put it into Microsoft Project or something similar. If not, an Excel spreadsheet will suffice as long as someone is managing it.

The biggest time consumers are anything to do with blogs, podcasts or video. Be hyper-sensitive to those pieces of the plan if, in fact, they’re part of it.

This five-part plan – C.O.P.P.S. – is a fool-proof method for devising a social media strategy for your agency. It answers all the pieces – who, what, when, where, why and how. If you follow it, it will work. If you something needs clarification, please let me know.

Lawbreakers’ worlds shrink with social media and web technology

c'est moi, @lawscomm

I’ve done a few interviews recently on my favorite topic of social media use by law enforcement. In each interview I’ve been asked what affect social media will have in the world of crime in the future. While it felt a bit audacious to say, in each case I answered that I truly believe social media will have a direct affect on lowering crime. It sounds utopian perhaps, but social media is shrinking our world. We’re learning more and more from and about people all over the planet. Part of what we’re learning more about is what crimes people are committing and exactly WHO is committing them. As we learn that, and as the people likely to commit them learn that the “jig is up”, doesn’t it stand to reason that they may smarten up? That there will develop an overall awareness that we really all are in “this” together and that our actions are seen by many (and many many more all the time). Am I delusional? Some people think so. The programs described in this article are far from perfect. But the fine law enforcement professionals who are brave enough to carry them out are true visionaries and I believe much good will result.

It’s always bigger in Texas

In Montgomery County Texas, DWI is a huge problem, they say like everything in Texas, bigger than in most parts of the country. In fact, according to the District Attorney’s office, it’s the number #1 most committed crime in the county. If someone suffers a violent death in Montgomery County, the DA’s office says it is most likely caused by an intoxicated driver. “You are three times more likely to be killed by an impaired or reckless driver in this county than you are by all other weapons combined”, according to Warren DiePraam, the Assistant DA and Chief of Vehicular Crimes. The DA’s office wants to send a message. DiePraam said, “what we want people to know is that Montgomery County takes DWI seriously. If you commit that crime here, it’s going to be costly for you.” And these days, it’s costing offenders a lot – its costing them their privacy.

Get busted for DWI in Montgomery County during specific “heavy drinking” holidays, and your name is blasted out to the DA’s 675 followers on Twitter. The Twitter account @MontgomeryTXDAO bears the name and photo of DA Brett Ligon, but it’s DiePraam’s brainchild and it’s he who tweets from it.

Here are some recent relevant tweets from the account.

It probably isn’t a surprise, the program has met with a fair amount criticism from legal professionals and citizens alike. Most pointing out that until someone is proven guilty, they shouldn’t be treated as though they are and to them, tweeting the offenders’ names amounts to being punished before being convicted. But the DA’s office says arrests are public information and the arrestees’ names are also published on several websites. The difference of course, is that Twitter messages get delivered to consumers without their having to put forth effort to see them.

DiePraam says they’ve received a fair amount of congratulations and appreciation for their efforts as well. The feedback that came via Twitter has been mixed:

Many critics are asking if the DAO will tweet when someone is found not-guilty of the DWI offense. DiePraam said he’s not opposed to that and thinks it’s a good idea and stated he would consider doing so. He added that 95% of people arrested for DUI in the county get convicted. They have a 100% conviction rate for arrests made with a blood search warrant.

It’s less about legalities and more about social media norms

So, what’s the big deal? It’s legal to publish the names of people convicted of a crime. Just because it’s Twitter, is that why it’s more controversial? Is it because a law enforcement agency is doing it? Perhaps it has something to do with the newness of the idea? The issue has less to do with it being legal, I would suggest, and more to do with it being a new idea and perhaps some of the things the DA is doing are counter to currently accepted social media practices.

Jeremy Lipschultz, Professor of Communications at the University of Nebraska in Omaha has spent the better part of his career at the intersection of communications and technology. He’s worked as a police reporter, radio News Director and college educator. Lipschultz spoke to the newness of the idea of news being posted on Twitter. “I think it goes back to a cultural tradition. When we reporters were the conduit to this, we only picked the most important stories and so people are used to that. There’s a feeling that there’s a threshold through which information passes before we citizens find out about it.” (*See footnote)

But social media is also about transparency, about openness, about laying ALL your cards on the table. If the DA is going to publish DUI arrests only during specific holidays, is it fair then if the person arrested on a non-holiday does NOT get their name published? Is that really being fully transparent? I suggest not.

“Once you make a decision to stop for a period of time, you’ve placed yourself in an editorial position at that point, and I don’t think that’s where public agencies ought to be.”
~ Jeremy Lipschultz

Currently the Montgomery DA office plans to follow a plan to publish during what they call “no refusal holidays” which includes St Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Lipschultz is concerned about that, “Once you make a decision to stop for a period of time, you’ve placed yourself in an editorial position at that point, and I don’t think that’s where public agencies ought to be.” I think he’s right and I shared this opinion with DiePraam. He listened and seemed to appreciate the input.

Other law enforcement agencies are undertaking similar initiatives. In Honolulu for example, the PD posts every Wednesday, for 24 hours, the names and mugshots of people who had been arrested for OVUII (Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant) on its website, a program they started November 25th, 2009.

Major Thomas Nitta of the HPD Traffic Division says reaction has been mixed but is mostly positive and the public has been surprised to learn just how many arrests they make for OVUII. He said “If asked most people would feel that in a week on Oahu maybe 30-40 people would be arrested for OVUII, when the actual numbers from 2008 averaged between 80-90 persons per week.” As posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 53 people had been arrested the week prior.

Nitta added the program is also intended to educate people that the persons arrested are usually friends, relatives, co-workers who are violating the law. Nitta told me that since the mugshots are taken down after 24 hours, it’s not a problem if someone wins their case in court because the information has been removed.

If this program is successful, acts as a deterrent or increases awareness to the problem of driving while intoxicated, Nitta said they may add similar initiatives to include domestic violence, prostitution or narcotics, “depending on the interest”. The department does not use social media tools and has no immediate plans to do so, bummer. :-(

Other departments tweet their arrest reports regularly, but some are adding more information to what they publish via Twitter. The Schenectedy Police Department, for example, is one PD tweeting its daily arrest reports which include a link that takes anyone who clicks to a pdf file of mugshots, names and other information.

The Montgomery County DA will continue to list suspected offenders’ names on Twitter during stepped-up DWI enforcement on major holiday weeks. DiePraam said, “It’s not going to be the magic solution, but very recently we got a letter from a citizen who lost the use of her legs as a result of getting hit by a drunk driver. That makes it worth it, when you get a good person who’s a victim saying thank-you”.

(See Chief Dan Alexander’s article about the dissolving of the media “filter” as well as his Public Information Manager, Mark Economou’s article about cops as journalists, both here on ConnectedCOPS. Both articles addressing the ability of law enforcement to publish their own “news.”).

The Ingredients of a Solid Social Media Policy for Law Enforcement Agencies

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