Minneapolis Police and Target offer free social media training for police

SOCIAL MEDIA TRAINING for law enforcement

Presented by Target and the Minneapolis Police Department
Hosted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

No Cost to Attend. Space is Limited. POST Board credit has been applied for.

Target and the Minneapolis Police Department have teamed up to offer training for metro area law enforcement on the use of social media in policing. Today’s law enforcement agencies are inundated with need-to-know issues every day and never before have something so profoundly affected modern policing as has social media. In this session, the widely recognized authority on social media in law enforcement teams up with the Deputy Chief and visionary at the police agency that has led the way. Toronto Police Deputy Chief Peter Sloly and Lauri Stevens of LAwS Communications will discuss the key leadership issues and strategies to succeed with implementing and managing interactive social technology at your agency.

The Toronto Police Service is 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. Come learn about the strategies they are employing.

Dates: January 21 and 22, 2013
Time: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (lunch provided)
Location: Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, 1430 Maryland Avenue East, St. Paul
Who Should Attend: Persons responsible for a law enforcement agency’s social media presence
Training Requirements: Attendees must have their Twitter and Facebook accounts already created before they show up. Attendees must bring their own laptop or Wi-Fi-enabled tablet.
To Register: Send an email to with subject line “Social Media Training: Jan. 21/22” – include your name, title, agency, email address and phone number
Questions, contact: Mahogany Eller at or 612-696-2664

• Deputy Chief Peter Sloly of the Toronto Police Service who is considered the visionary that led the way on the use of interactive social technology at police agencies.
• Lauri Stevens of LAwS Communications is the widely recognized authority on social media in law enforcement.

Training Description
For law enforcement, social media presents a doubled-edge sword. We all know it comes with tremendous risks. How does an agency realize the many benefits it brings and mitigate those risks? The answer is: by implementing social media with sound governance and a proactive strategy and by providing solid training to employees.

This comprehensive two-day LAwS Academy training on social media use in law enforcement includes complete training in the use of Twitter and Facebook on day one. On day two we cover LinkedIn, Blogs, Pinterest, mobile apps, Social Media Strategy with the C.O.P.P.S. Social Media Method and policy considerations. This fast-paced course is designed for the serious learner and is intended to take law enforcement attendees with little or no knowledge of social media usage to a point where they’re comfortable and knowledgeable and have a complete working knowledge of how to gain all the benefits from using social media and mitigate the associated risks.

Learning goal
By completing this training, students with little to no knowledge of social media with learn the mechanics of the main social media platforms in use by law enforcement for community engagement. They will also come away with a basic understanding of how to develop a communication strategy for their agencies. Students will understand what policies are recommended at a minimum, and how to begin to create them. They will also understand the many risks to an officer’s career and safety with careless use of social networks and how to provide training to help their employees understand those risks.

Upon completing this course, successful students will know:
• Thorough knowledge of mechanics and use of Twitter
• Thorough knowledge of mechanics and use of Facebook
• Basic knowledge of mechanics and use of Pinterest, LinkedIn, Blogs
• A step-by-step process for developing a strategy
• What policies are necessary to navigate successfully
• Career survival and officer safety issues with Facebook, facial recognition, geo location, video-taping and appropriate posting

POST Board credit has been applied for.

Social Media Quick Tip: Set a Custom URL on LinkedIn

It’s always a good idea to set your own uniform resource locator (URL), aka Web address, on every platform that allows it. We’ve already covered how to do that on Facebook here. Because more and more police officers are joining LinkedIn these days, here’s how to set your own URL there.

After you log in to LinkedIn:

1) In the upper right corner, in the pull-down menu where your name is, select Settings.

2) In the bottom half of the page, select Profile if it isn’t selected by default.

3) Over to the right under Settings, select Edit your public profile.

4) Then, on the right-hand side, in the second section, look for Your public profile URL.

5) Click Customize and enter the name of your liking.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on

Social Media Quick Tip: 3 Reasons Why LEOs Should be on LinkedIn

Among them—it’s a secure, professional networking resource.

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for law enforcement professionals. This online community offers a more sophisticated sharing environment, greater privacy controls and less concern that your data can be compromised by the carelessness of others.

Following are three reasons why police officers should consider signing up:

1. It allows you to connect with other professionals around the world: Connecting with others on LinkedIn works much like Facebook where it must be accepted by the recipient of the request. The real ah-ha moment comes after you’ve connected with a few people and look at LinkedIn’s network statistics. It’s then that you might realize that with about 75 first-degree connections, you could be linked to a million or more at the third degree, all around the world. Think about the power of this if you wanted to make a career move or need information about an issue you’re dealing with in your police force. It’s also surprisingly easy to connect with leaders in your profession with whom you might not otherwise have such an opportunity. Next time you attend training with police professionals from around the world, make a point of finding them on LinkedIn and stay connected.

2. It offers great group opportunities:
With LinkedIn Groups you can join other police professionals and join conversations or receive updates. There are dozens of LinkedIn groups representing police associations, publications (click here to join Law Officer’s group) or ones organized around certain topics (like social media use in law enforcement). With LinkedIn Answers, you can find answers to questions on just about any topic or even establish yourself as an expert on a topic by providing answers.

3. It’s your online resume: You may never have to send a paper resume again. As you progress through your career, edit as you go and your professional history is always up to date. That is one of the nicest benefits of LinkedIn. It helps you keep track of you.

This Social Media Quick Tip was previously published on

SMILE: Chief Billy Grogan’s Perspective

The Dunwoody (GA) Police Department began operations on April 1, 2009. On April 2, 2009, we created our Twitter account and began tweeting. We really needed a way to quickly connect with our community and Twitter provided that platform. Once we made it past the busywork of the start-up, we created a Facebook fan page for the department as well. Both Twitter and Facebook are being used to educate the public and get the word out about the good things happening within our department.

However, I felt something was missing. I had a number of questions about using social media in law enforcement and very few answers. I received an email about an upcoming conference which seemed to be an answer to my prayers. Social Media in Law Enforcement, Using Social Media to Improve Law Enforcement and Engage Citizens seemed like the perfect conference for me. I quickly signed up and brought Sergeant Carlson, who is in charge of our Community Outreach Unit, with me as well.

The SMILE Conference was all that I expected and more. We attended the LAwS Academy the first day and the conference itself for the next two days. Each day was jam packed with excellent speakers, from all over the world, which covered a variety of social media topics of importance. The topics covered included Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging, Ning, social media monitoring, branding, podcasting, crime prevention, investigations, system integrations, adapting to the new media era and the future of social media to name a few. Each speaker was knowledgeable, provided great content and was able to engage their audience in meaningful conversations.

One of the highlights of the conference was a town hall meeting held one evening. Several of the speakers formed a panel and answered questions from participants at the conference. This was a great opportunity to discuss topics that were either not listed on the agenda for the conference or to discuss a topic that was listed more thoroughly.

Indeed, The SMILE Conference provided the answers to my questions and really filled in the missing pieces of the social media puzzle. I learned a great deal of specific, technical information about certain programs which will help me tremendously. However, there were three broad concepts which, I believe, will be the most beneficial.

The first is you need to have a plan when you get your department involved in social media. Unfortunately, when we first started using social media with the Dunwoody Police Department, we had no plan. After listening to all of the excellent speakers, I now understand the importance of having a plan and we will develop ours in the near future.

The second is you must have a social media policy. As of right now, my department does not have a social media policy. This will definitely be a priority prior to expanding our social media footprint in the future.

The last important concept I took away from the SMILE conference is you can’t do everything in social media. You should pick the social media programs that will be the most useful for your department and your community and use them. You do not have to do it all. This was a relief for me because I really felt overwhelmed by the large number of social media applications available and I struggled to identify the right ones for our department.

While at the conference, I tweeted about a program we are using at our department which has an iPhone application with it. One of the major metro Atlanta television stations, who follow us on Twitter, now wants to do a story about our program. This positive story would not have been picked up if it wasn’t for Twitter.

The SMILE Conference was a great benefit to me and my agency and the ideas I took away from the conference will light the way for my agencies future direction in social media. In addition, networking with leading thinkers and users of social media in law enforcement and outside law enforcement was especially helpful. I know that I am not alone and now I know who I can contact for help.

Chief Billy Grogan

Billy Grogan is the Chief of Police in Dunwoody, GA. Chief Grogan is committed to the concept of Community Policing as a way to connect with the community in a meaningful way to combat crime and disorder and improve the quality of life for the visitors and citizens of Dunwoody. He attended The SMILE Conference in Washington, D.C. and offers this (unsolicited) perspective.

How can you be a ConnectedCOP if you’re not LinkedIn?

There have been a few stories in the major press recently about gang members increasing use of social media. The most recent just today by the Associated Press: Use of Twitter, Facebook rising among gang members

I posted the article on the Law Enforcement 2.0 LinkedIn group and a couple hours later, it was commented on by Ken Davey, a senior member of the Hong Kong Police. Davey joined the group just a couple weeks ago and has already commented a few times.

What he pointed out is that it doesn’t matter where in the world, policing is facing the same issues. Regarding gangs he said, “Recruitment of new members, directions on activities, warnings of impending police action, gathering of their own intel, perhaps even looking for weak spots to exploit in authority figures or other gangs, are all potential ways they might and do use social media.”

“This an area that many police forces, though maybe still catching up, ought to feel more secure in using social media than they do for, perhaps, community policing. After all, it is just another way of criminals making use of whatever is available to them out there and, just as we police the streets, we now need to police a cyber-sector.”

My favorite part of his comments:

For example, patrolling chat rooms for sexual predators is nothing new, so while maybe the older, less tech-savvy LEOs might not know how to use the tool itself, their policing skills and experience are still directly relevant to the job. It’s just a case of learning to use the tools.
~Chief Superintendent Ken Davey, Hong Kong Police

“For example, patrolling chat rooms for sexual predators is nothing new, so while maybe the older, less tech-savvy LEOs might not know how to use the tool itself, their policing skills and experience are still directly relevant to the job. It’s just a case of learning to use the tools.”

The time has come

Chief Superintendent Davey is in Hong Kong. And where are you right now? Where else can you exchange ideas on topics that you struggle with every day like this? You don’t have time to always travel to events to do it. Why not get on LinkedIn. It’s incredibly easy to get started. You can join groups right away. The value you get out of groups is equal to what you put in. And even if you’re one of those “less tech-savvy LEOs” that Davey refers to, you can get going on LinkedIn. Run into trouble? Find some old-fashioned piece of technology (like email or a phone) and contact me. I’m at your service.

Police Executives on LinkedIn

Recently I started a few other groups for police executives. The groups are only for command level officers with one subgroup for chiefs only. So, any time you want, you can put a topic out there and know that only chiefs – with decades of experience – will hear it and possibly offer some valuable insight, any hour of the day.

I have chiefs helping me manage them including Chief Molloy in Michigan, Chief Alexander in Florida and Chief Stacey in Nebraska.

We also have subgroups by geography so if you want to link all the police executives in your state, just say the word and I’ll set it up. While the Law Enforcement 2.0 group, and most others are open to just about anybody, none of the executive groups are public. The best way to join is, once you’re on LinkedIn, contact me through there.

LinkedIn just makes sense for LEOs of all levels. It’s inherently a place where professionals get together to share ideas. No “friending”, no “following”, just linking to other people with shared interests and exchanging good information.

If you’re not on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for? And if you are, be sure to join the groups I mention here and search for others. There are many that are law enforcement related.

No reason to object

All the reasons cops think of to avoid social media really don’t apply with LinkedIn. Like the privacy issues you all worry about. You set your profile up so no one can see it unless you’re linked. And you link with other professionals, not citizens or former high-school chums. The facebook issues where a “friend-of-a-friend” can see your stuff without you knowing are just not there. And the benefits are huge. You’ll make global connections and have access to a wealth of information. The power of LinkedIn is when you start to see potential connections to people you want to know but don’t. Participation, as always, is the key.

Watch what you post

Social networking sites are great for meeting new people and having some fun, but don’t let that fun kill your career.

Dean Scoville is Associate Editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service. This article was previously published at

Cops, like any other members of a high-stress profession, like to joke around about what happens at work. Many of these jokes would be considered crude or insensitive, perhaps even slanderous, by people who don’t work as police officers. But as long as the public doesn’t hear these jokes then the attitude of most administrators is no harm, no foul.

Unfortunately, such cop jokes are now being voiced in public. A generation ago, when cops wanted to blow off steam, they met some place private, had a few beers, and nobody outside the circle knew what was said or done.

Today’s cops may still gather over a case of cold beer, but they also gather online using social networking tools such as MySpace and Facebook. Which is a problem for agencies and officers because what many users of social networks don’t realize before its too late is that anything they do or say or write on these sites is done so in full view of the public. Other officers may be aware that they are speaking in public, but they apparently don’t care.

The Cromer Case

Perhaps the most widely known example of an officer coming to grief because of something that he or she wrote on a social networking site happened three years ago in Kentucky.

In 2006 Officer Joshua Cromer of the Lexington Police Department made a traffic stop. The driver was country singing star John Michael Montgomery who lives nearby. Cromer arrested Montgomery and the singer was later charged with driving under the influence, possessing a controlled drug, and two counts of carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Montgomery later pleaded out on the drunken-driving charge. That should have been the end of the matter.

Unfortunately for Cromer, that traffic stop was just the beginning of a long nightmare. The arrest became fodder for Cromer’s MySpace page. Friends, mostly fellow cops, congratulated him on the bust and poked fun at Montgomery by posting a doctored photo that showed Cromer as an adoring fan.

Complaints about Cromer’s site led to the brass checking out a number of their officers’ MySpace pages. What they found made them really angry. There were comments about the department, comments about the people of Lexington, comments about gays, and comments about the mentally disabled. And a very brown and very smelly storm gathered over the heads of Cromer and several other Lexington PD officers.

Cromer was dismissed from the Lexington PD on grounds of misconduct, inefficiency, insubordination, and conduct unbecoming a police officer. He later sued for back pay and reinstatement. He lost. As for the other members of Cromer’s MySpace circle of friends, five of them were suspended. They were later allowed to return to duty.

Chief Concerns

The Cromer case is a clear example of an employer’s ability to monitor an employee’s online social network activity even away from the job. It also illustrates the power that an agency has over its officers’ ability to exercise free speech.

For law enforcement officers, other public officials, and even private employees, caution should be the byword when posting material on a social networking site. And make no mistake, many agencies are monitoring what their officers do online.

These agencies know there is a potential for an employee’s Website comment to become instrumental in a civil or even criminal case. Defense attorneys and civil rights attorneys are monitoring what you write on your private pages the same way that police investigators monitor the sites of criminals. So use your brain. If you don’t want your comments read in public, don’t post them in public.

And whatever you do, don’t maintain your Facebook page on the job. An Indiana State Trooper found himself under investigation for his online activity both off and on the job.

A born multitasker, this trooper allegedly bragged about his heavy drinking, posted a picture of his cruiser with collision damage and the caption “Oops! Where did my front end go?” and uploaded an image of a gun being pointed at his head. On the same Facebook page, he reportedly characterized himself as a “garbage man,” saying, “I pick up trash for a living.” Statements reflecting dissatisfaction with weather and working conditions were also allegedly posted during times that the trooper was supposed to be at work.

When a TV news report revealed the evidence to state patrol brass, they launched an internal investigation. At presstime, the findings of that inquiry have not been released.

With Friends Like These

The nature of social networking sites, which link users to hundreds-even thousands-of online friends, can also make them particularly hazardous for your career. Just ask Officer John Nohejl of the New Port Richey (Fla.) Police Department.

By all accounts, Nohejl accomplished great things during his three years as a school resource officer, turning a D school around into an A school in one year. Well liked by the kids and school staff, Nohejl came up with the idea of setting up a MySpace page to communicate with students. School leaders, parents, and the police department were enthusiastic about the idea. In a relatively short period of time, Nohejl was not only able to share safety tips with students via the new “Officer John” site but also obtain tips that expedited investigations and resulted in arrests.

But then he found himself in a peck of trouble.

An anonymous complainant advised the department that one of Nohejl’s MySpace “friends” offered a link that included photos of nude women. Another offered obscene comments about oral sex and large breasts, among other objectionable content-all of which could be easily navigated to by 11- to 14-year-old students visiting Nohejl’s page.

Now the links are gone, but the sting of the experience still lingers for Nohejl.

“I tried to do a good thing for kids,” Nohejl reflects. “But I got blind-sided. I’d checked out this person’s profile and it seemed OK, so I allowed him on as a friend. But once I did that, he went back onto MySpace and maliciously changed his profile so that in a matter of three clicks from my page, kids could be exposed to this pornography. I was railroaded-not by the department, but by the person who orchestrated this mess.”

The Florida attorney general’s cybercrime task force investigated the Nohejl case. Nohejl was cleared of any wrong-doing. Unfortunately, a collateral casualty was the Officer John MySpace account. “The moment this problem was brought to light, they immediately removed it,” Nohejl says.

Back on patrol these days, Nohejl hopes that others learn from his experience. “It’s a good lesson for cops. You can be held responsible for things that are beyond your control,” Nohejl says. “Who can possibly go through the profiles of hundreds of MySpace friends every day to make sure that someone’s not going to do the same thing again?”

Etiquette and Policy

Concerns about such sites go beyond objectionable material or technological access by hackers. By piecing together information about companies through their employees’ social network entries, identity thieves and others have been able to trick people into allowing confidential information beyond intended audiences.

Consequently, many agencies feel under pressure to establish some form of social networking etiquette or protocol for their employees. As a result, some agencies are just telling their employees to stay off Facebook and similar sites.

Former police officer, academy instructor, and network security author Deb Shinder suspects that until some new legal precedent dictates otherwise, agencies may have the upper hand in this equation.

“Unless there is state law or a union contract that says otherwise, [police departments] can be pretty much as stringent as they want to, as long as the policies are applied equally and without discrimination,” Shinder says.

But can your employer really tell you what you can and can’t do with your own computer on your own time?

Maybe. “Off-duty activities on one’s own computer are more of an issue of contention,” explains Shinder. “But even if the agency doesn’t have a policy specifically addressing online behavior, certain online activities–especially if the person’s profile and social networking posts are open to the public–could probably be construed to fall under general ‘conduct unbecoming’ regulations.”

Nonetheless, Shinder believes that agencies would be ill advised to prohibit their officers from enjoying the benefits of social networking online. “Young people who grow up with social networking as part of their lives aren’t going to take well to being told they can’t do it anymore, and law enforcement will lose way too many potential good cops if they take a hard line on that,” she explains.

Given that social networking is here to stay and young cops believe they have a fundamental right to use these sites, smart agencies are going to have to find a way to regulate what officers do online without being too restrictive.

“I think it makes more sense to cautiously embrace the technology, to set policies that are reasonable, and to educate officers about what does and doesn’t constitute professional online behavior and more importantly, why their online behavior matters, why it’s in their own best interest, not just that of the agency, for them to project a public image that they won’t cringe over a few years down the line when they’re trying to move up the career ladder,” says Shinder.

Some agencies are adding online social network regulations to their policy manuals.

For example, the Indiana State Police is in the process of drafting standard operating procedure for its staff regarding posting information on personal Web pages such as Facebook. And in Salt Lake City, Sgt. Robin Snyder, a public relations officer with the city police, is currently researching laws and other department policies toward formulating a policy for her department.

Others have already set their policies. The Minneapolis Police Department adopted a policy in October that prohibits its police officers from identifying themselves as such on social networking sites.

Officer Reaction

The implementation of such policies has taken some cops aback.

“Cops are not only being held to higher standards,” notes one Massachusetts police officer, “but in some cases, unreasonable standards.”

Many officers say the “do as I say, not as I do” posture of some agencies is especially annoying, as their employers and commanders see themselves uniquely capable of maintaining professional online content. Others say they don’t appreciate the interference in their personal lives.

“It’s like freedom of speech, apparently there are some who think you should be able to tell a cop to go expletive himself without repercussion and yet they also believe that a cop should be disciplined for using any profanity (called command presence when I write my report or testify in court). Shouldn’t then a social network profile be freedom of speech?” asked one officer.

And while many officers understand the impetus for anti-social networking policies, they still resent them.

“It’s all about liability. We have enough of that stuff already as cops, I’m not giving anyone another weapon to try and take my job away.”

Use Common Sense Online

Salt Lake City PD’s Snyder can only shake her head when she contemplates some of the trouble cops have gotten themselves in behind social networks.

“It seems that police officers have more common sense when it comes to using their gun in the field if they have to,” Snyder notes. “When they go into a restaurant, they know to sit with their back to the wall, they know if something happens where their escape routes are. But they never think about if they post something on Facebook. Are they going to offend somebody racially or by sexual orientation? They never think about that kind of stuff. Officers should know better than to post certain things on Facebook.”

To this end, Snyder tries to pick up the slack.

“I teach a media relations class to the recruits,” Snyder says. “I’ve added social media to tell them that they’re no longer anonymous. I ask how many people have Facebook accounts, and I tell them they have to think about if they post something and their local news media picks it up. There’s no official social networking training, but I see it coming within the next year.”

Shinder offers the following pointers when engaging in social networking: “Don’t post pictures of yourself doing something embarrassing or illegal. Don’t make derogatory comments about any race or group. Don’t post comments that could be construed as sexually harassing, especially if you have co-workers or subordinates of the opposite gender as ‘friends.’ It’s also probably a good idea not to get into passionate diatribes about agency politics.”

It is also important to point out that your friends not only see what you post on your site, but also what your other friends post there. “That’s another reason to separate your professional and personal lives by having more than one Facebook or MySpace account,” asserts Shinder.

Most sites do let you set options regarding which of your friends can see what types of posts, and it’s a good idea to become very well acquainted with how these tools work and use them.

Sam Walker, a retired professor and a former member of the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union, suggests that a simple disclaimer by the employee may protect many officers from earning the ire of their departments.

In the absence of policies developed to specifically address social networks, many agencies have and will probably continue to flag their personnel under some generic catch-all: Conduct unbecoming a peace officer. But they will address it.

Curiously, none will come near to invoking the caveat most invoked in matters of law enforcement concern: Use common sense.

For in matters of social intercourse, there is little commonly agreed upon and what may be acceptable to one person or group may well be unacceptable, even offensive, to another.

In the meantime, it would appear that some agencies are hoping that by adopting more rigid postures, they might wear their employees down so that they’ll take a note from the Gershwin song when it comes to posting to social networks and just call the whole thing off.