I’ve been asked why I post what I do to social media. It’s simple—to be social. The value is to operationalize the term “social.” It’s what you chose to present to the world. I have no agenda, or master plan—I just enjoy people.
It’s encouraging to know people who are connected through social media. I always try to meet them in person if possible. You’d be surprised how amazing some of them can be on the other side of the computer’s screen.
Talk about amazing – last week while at the hospital, so many folks knew Max from Facebook. It’s a blessing to see their faces light up and kind words accompany friendly gestures.
As a dad, it’s wonderful to see your son touch lives, even without an ability to verbalize his thoughts. That’s the true aspect of social media – being able to convey your message. Max communicates love and kindness through his full-face smiles and double thumbs up poses.
What message do you convey – virtually or in person? It’s your message to manage-make it count.
In general, law enforcement has made for horrible horticulturalists. We’ve not tilled the soil of community engagement as a practice. Now we wonder why no one understands us.
When an incident like Ferguson erupts, the pundits hurry to fend off allegations from a civilian population incessantly asking for answers. I’ve had so many tell how they’ve unfriended people on social media streams because of the content post-grand jury decision.
When a public service organization adopts a “No Comment” paradigm over the course of a few centuries, is it any wonder why questions and misinformation arises during societal flash points. While operational confidentiality is vital to an agency’s mission, the majority of daily operations and information processed by law enforcement fail to meet the level of classified materials.
Social media allows public agencies an opportunity to manage their own message. If an agency fails or refuses to engage in the often free mediums available for informing people, then they should expect to face the accusations of pent up frustrations.
This is a great opportunity for Chiefs and Sheriff’s to re-examine their public relations practices. It has to be more substantial than a few handshakes with kids at the high school ball game. An ongoing, open dialogue with the community we swore to serve builds bridges and breaks down walls.
A few suggestions:
Balance the “official” tone of agency social media accounts. If you want the public to relate to the humanity of your officers, then present them as such.
Not every public event has to be public. People distinguish “photo ops” from sincere neighborhood engagements.
Proactively pursue the media for establishing mutual credibility. Yes, mutual.
Ensure the designated “Voice and Face” of your agency is representative not only of the community, but of the vision and ideals for serving the public.
When wrong, say “I’m sorry.”
When right, give credit to the persons responsible. Whether it’s the rookie cop or the shop owner who dialed it in, give legitimate thanks.
Don’t wait until a crisis to introduce yourself to the public you vowed to protect.
Don’t take it person. Negative public comments are born out of the frustrations of not being heard. Re-evaluate practices to ensure you’ve not shut your community out.
When times get tough, don’t be a prick.
In all situations, be yourself – a single human being placed in extraordinary circumstances trying to handle unimaginable calamities. People understand if you trip, and if you do, refer back to #9.
Ferguson & Public Engagement | What are they good for?
You’ve survived years of schooling and training, along with a few good years of law enforcement service.
If you’re on the hunt for creative way to toss away that great career in law enforcement, I’ve got the answer for you: Be irresponsible and reckless in your use of social media.
Yes, you too can flush all that prestige and the honor of wearing the badge — not to mention the little issue of being able to afford to shelter and feed you and your family — just by a few well-placed posts on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, or other social media account.
If you want out of that police department or sheriff’s department job, I can almost guarantee that following the below steps will ensure that you can enjoy a life of leisure as a gainfully unemployed former law enforcement officer.
This is also good advice for those pre-service individuals seeking to destroy their career before it even gets off the ground. Quite conveniently for you, many hiring law enforcement agencies look closely at prospective hires’ social media sites in a bid to ascertain character and suitability for a judgment-oriented career in public safety.
The below examples will certainly make your need to exercise good judgment abundantly clear.
1. Contravene Confidentiality
As a law enforcement professional, you are trusted by your employer and have a duty to protect the confidentiality of information you obtain while serving your community. If you are bent on destroying that confidentiality, then by all means, do post pictures of victims of gruesome vehicle crashes on Instagram and release that detailed confidential source information in 140 descriptive characters on Twitters.
2. Bash your Boss
Be a die-hard First Amendment Free Speecher and air your feelings about your sergeant or lieutenant on your zero-privacy-settings Facebook page. Bash your boss by name. Use a picture. That’s sure to win him or her over to your point of view. Go even further and draw obscene objects on their posted picture.
3. Pornographic Pictures
While you’re on your combustible career crash, be sure to ride the wave of pornographic pictures that are all the rage on Instagram and Tumblr. Better yet, be sure to have parts of your official uniform visible hanging off of you with special attention to your department’s insignia (patch or badge – your choice) or your marked unit clearly visible in the photo. Throw in a departmentally owned weapon or two to get more bang for your buck.
4. Drugs and Alcohol
So, maybe you’re not the type to flaunt your nude or semi naked body on social media. Another variation would be the open use of your favorite illicit drug in Facebook pictures. Be sure your face is visible as you use your chosen method of ingesting that drug and go that extra mile of identifying yourself as a law enforcer.
If drugs aren’t your thing, take heart as drinking can also leave your career in ruins. Drunken behavior is always noticed by law enforcement agency chief executives, so be outrageous in your actions. Heck, have some underage folks drinking with you in the picture for some real impact. For the icing on the cake, leave that evidence tag attached from when you swiped it with the agency’s tag clearly displayed in the photo.
5. Racist Rants
Tired of being politically correct? Then go to the opposite end of the spectrum and put all sorts of racist, sexist, and homophobic rants on your Twitter. Let your inner misogynist be public. The Twitter rants approach has done wonders for Alec Baldwin’s image and it can certainly have an effect on yours with your department. Defense attorneys particularly appreciate when they discover any prejudicial or sexist attitudes that you have on display on social media and use them in court and publicly to impeach your credibility.
Make It Count
Whatever method or methods above that you pursue in the destruction of your career, be sure to do it while on duty. Use the agency’s smartphone or computer, and have all of your social media privacy settings on open to the public. You should at least have the maligning missives go through the agency’s server. That will certainly give the administration some good grounds upon which to go after you.
In all seriousness though, contrary to the above examples of what NOT to do, responsible use of your social media is the route to go in the public safety field, as well as all other careers. Eschewing these websites altogether is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t advocate going without social media — I favor controlled usage of them.
Social media is a tool much like your firearm (I’ve opened up Pandora ’s Box with that analogy). It can be used to further your law enforcement career, as well as investigative and community relations duties. It can also be used to destroy your chosen career path. You control its use and a professional approach is a win for you, your employer, and the community you represent and serve.
NOTE: Great post from my friend Lauri Stevens at ConnectedCops.net. Please check her out!
Did you know that 76% of survivors of natural disasters use social media to let their friends know they’re safe? You can find more interesting facts about social media’s role in the wake of a natural disaster, including Sandy, in the following infographic developed by University of San Francisco’s Masters of Public Administration department. The infographic was most recently used in a congressional hearing shown on C-SPAN, demonstrating the importance of social media in a natural disaster.
Social Media is The New Face of Disaster Response [Infographic]
Have you relied upon social media for information in a crisis?
A picture’s worth a thousand words…and possible jail time
NOTE: Another great collaborative article between the Thibodaux Police Department and Samantha Morgan at NBC33 Baton Rouge.
THIBODAUX, LA (NBC33) – Love can make even the most mature person do crazy things. Unfortunately, technology has created a growing problem among teens and young adults that can have very serious consequences.
“When dealing with kids, they’re sending pictures to each other because they don’t think about the long-term consequences,” David Melancon, Thibodaux Police Department, explained.
“When young people are in relationships, they think they love that person and they are going to be together forever. But when the breakup happens, the other person ends up with compromising photos of you.”
Although sending sexually explicit photos to a significant other is not a problem specific to teens, it is a unique situation that could lead to criminal charges.
“What many people do not know is that an underage girl can snap a picture of herself and send it to someone who is older, and they can be charged with possession of child pornography,” Melancon noted.
“Being ignorant of the juvenile’s age is not a defense. If the officer can prove the person in the picture is not of age, they can be charged.”
It is important to note the individual who receives the photo does not have to be a legal adult to face charges. “There have been teenagers who have been charged with possession of child pornography, too,” he added.
“No matter your age, if you have pictures of someone underage, you could be charged criminally.”The person who sent the photo is not free from blame. In fact, the juvenile could face a charge just as damaging.
“If an underage teenager or child sends a naked photo of themselves to someone else, they can be charged with distribution or production of child pornography.”
Unfortunately, the result of sexually compromising photos is more likely to end up in the public eye rather than a courtroom. “Locally, there was a young girl who sent a naked picture of herself to her boyfriend,” Melancon explained.
“She trusted him and believed he would not send it to anyone else.He didn’t, but his friend got hold of his phone and he blasted it out. Then, the people who got it blasted it out, and it eventually ended up on the phone of someone who was at work.
One of the men working there asked what they were looking at, and when they showed him, it was a picture of his daughter. “The girl fell victim to something she thought was secure and safe,” he continued.
In this case, the individual who distributed the image did so after gaining direct access to the phone. However, in the digital age, everything stored is subject to possible hackers.
“If you have something you don’t want the world to share, you shouldn’t have it on your phone,” Josh Henderson, a computer expert at Computer Heaven in Baton Rouge, said in a past interview with NBC33.
“You can be in the room with somebody, not using [your phone], but if you do not have a password on your phone, they can get in your files, pictures, text, emails, anything like that.”
Wi-Fi helps keep your data plan under control, but it can give access to just about anyone, making it easy for someone to find compromising photos and distribute them online. Once the photo is distributed, there’s a far more dangerous situation possible than embarrassment.
“I have heard cases where people use these photos to get what they want from the other person,” Melancon said.
“I think that’s it’s important for teens and adults to know that when they send a compromising photo out, they are no longer in control of who sees that photo and you’re in turn no longer in control of yourself because it can easily be used against you.”
Blackmail, public humiliation, criminal charges; none of these are things you wish upon yourself, let alone your child, but what can you do about it? “Educate them on the dangers of what they face and the long-term consequences,” Melancon noted.
“Take a proactive stance in monitoring your child’s activity. The days of putting a computer in the family room are over. Now you have 12-year-olds with smart phones. They can take pictures and post inappropriate things online without you ever knowing it.”
Although the cases presented in this story are extreme, they are not uncommon. Use them as examples to begin a dialogue with your child, and take this as a first step to educating yourself on the dangers of a virtual-based society. “For parents, this can be very scary,” Melancon concluded.
“Be proactive. Educate yourself. Chances are your kids don’t know everything about the Internet, either.”
This story is part of a series called “The thin blue line separating social from cell block.”