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.