Social media is a powerful phenomenon that has been widely used in all areas, including law enforcement. Police departments may use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or My Space to follow a given perspective. For example, during a criminal investigation, the police may check someone’s activity on social media, such as the frequency of opening the online platforms and locations where the user accesses the platforms. However, there has been a growing concern over the use of social media by law enforcers as some officers have taken the issue to degrade the service (Shusta et al., 2018). Most police officers have personal handsets such as a phone or laptop essential in reaching social media. As a result, the liberty to work while using social media has led to a sensitive approach over what the officers post and follow on the media platforms. This paper discusses the need to have a policy by developing the appropriate action or plan that needs to be implemented as a policy for law enforcement bodies, specifically police officers.
Development Of a Department Policy
Suitable Practices for the Regulation of Police Officers’ Use of Social Media
The use of social media in the police service cannot be overlooked for many reasons. Social media tools are effective in crime investigation whereby members of the unit use someone’s posts, profile, status, and other details to ascertain various issues in contention. As Figure 1 shows, social media in law enforcement may be used to notify the public on safety concerns, monitor public sentiment, and intelligence gathering, among other uses. However, without prior coordination of matters in handling social media, there could be the development risks associated with the misuse of social media by the police members (Shusta et al., 2018). The following practices are suitable for regulating police officers’ use of social media.
The US law enforcement agencies must develop a control criterion for social media usage by police officers. The measure must balance the constitutional rights of the person in the service while adhering to the integrity of the DepartmentDepartment when it comes to investigations (Schneider & Altheide, 2016). In this case, the agencies in charge of checking and monitoring the content posted on social media must be proactive in regulating photos or video clips of officers that may show evidence of lapse or ignorance of duty. This is possible through a program designed to incorporate all the social media accounts to ascertain or approve what they post for law enforcers.
Technology has advanced, and so does human capability. The police agencies must create a website that integrates the scheduling of posts for the police officers before they post their respective issues on social media (Schneider & Altheide, 2016). There should be a mandatory checking on what content a user makes. Therefore, through the efforts to curl the unnecessary posts, it will be possible to combat any harmful content due to police unprofessionalism. Additionally, controlling the use of social media for policemen and women through a third-party approach shall guarantee low engagement online that prevents profanity in members of police service.
While interviewing the local leaders in the law enforcement departments, most of them admitted that lack of comprehensive coordination and implementation of policies lead to violations of security issues. The senior police agents said that the new reality in social media had affected the police department alongside other notable security units. The main issue that they confessed is the new obsession with the power of social media that has affected the member of the police service (Gollwitzer, 2018). The leaders put that some policemen have set their profile while in police uniform. In contrast, others have captured details that insinuate that they are police officers, contrary to the training and security measures while working in the Department.
Account management is the key matter that can be useful in controlling the misuse of social media by police officers. There is a need to adopt approving all the social media sites that police officers access while working. While creating accounts, their names should be in a certain database that allows them to know that they are closely monitored on their activities. It means that a police member shall have to accept various terms and conditions that will be popping up once registering in respective media tools (Beshears et al., 2019). In this case, any information that the DepartmentDepartment heads mark as unappropriated shall be pulled by the respective administrators as depicted in the previous paragraphs. The opinions that any police member shall give must tally with the Department’sDepartment’s requirements. Therefore, when this concept is applied, there shall be minimal or no cases of police officers uploading unprofessional statuses that may cause an escalation of insecurity within the respective areas of the US territory.
The Required Policy
Through law enforcement agencies, the US government should outline acceptable content that police officers post on social media through a comprehensive monitoring approach that shall be implemented through a raft of metrics highlighted below. A policeman shall be held liable if they are found guilty of breaching the policy on what to post and what to avoid. The chief of police (COP) office should leverage how to put in place an underground team that monitors the posts (Schneider & Altheide, 2016). There should be a partnership with the companies that provide social media services in that an administrator can delete any mischievous post that comes from a police officer. Thus, coordination within the law enforcement companies and organizations that power social media must be prioritized to combat the misuse of social media within the police service.
The policy should target improving the existing frameworks that guide the social media usage of the police. The current international association of chiefs of police (IACP) should be revised based on the basics that trigger the implementation of content sieving in police agencies (Boateng & Chenane, 2020). IACP should have many subdivisions from the media platforms that give specific users the rightful control of posts, such as security officers. The framework was set to completely end adverse information by the police officers as far as social media is concerned. As of 2022, 27.6% of the agencies have not given an approach to successfully implement strategies that control content by the police (Boateng & Chenane, 2020, p. 270). Therefore, this research recommends fully adopting guidelines on social media activity by law enforcers as per the association’s initial mission and standards expected to control the issue.
The Department of Homeland Security should list all the accounts from the police department that give real-time updates and verified information. The DepartmentDepartment must have public sensitization to highlight the importance of disregarding any detail released from the unverified account (Boateng & Chenane, 2020). In this case, it means the perpetrators of this issue will be reluctant to post information that is misguiding in nature. This policy must be applied with the networking capability of the government, more so in areas that are considered sensitive such as terror attacks and intended government sabotages, among others.
For the policy to succeed, there is a need to incorporate training as an important aspect that guarantees understanding what needs to be done as far as social media usage by police officers is concerned. The agencies that use online platforms to communicate their matters must ensure they guide the members of the police service to use formal language, etiquette, and tone that is not probing the audience to be overwhelmed over a given issue (Gollwitzer, 2018). That means a plan must be set to include fostering knowledge to police officers on the expected conduct within their social media activities while on duty or not.
As depicted in the previous part, the recommended policy for the DepartmentDepartment is to have comprehensive control of police officers’ social media activity. The control shall be enabled by account management, training on the required aspects of social media among police officers, collaboration with social media firms, and verification of the account’s authenticity that can be relied on to convey the right information to the public. This policy shall be successful if all the above measures for suitable regulation of social media activity by law enforcers are executed efficiently.
Beshears, M., Beshears, M., & Bond, M. (2019). Improving police social media use practices. International Journal of Social Science Studies, 7(5), 34.
Boateng, F., & Chenane, J. (2020). Policing and social media: A mixed-method investigation of social media use by a small-town police department. International Journal of Police Science &Amp; Management, 22(3), 263-273.
Gollwitzer, A. (2018). Social media use relates to perceiving the United States as more politically polarized. SSRN Electronic Journal, 8(4), 50-57.
Schneider, C., & Altheide, D. (2016). Policing and social media. Lexington Books.
Shusta, R., Levine, D., & Olson, A. (2018). Multicultural law enforcement: Strategies for peacekeeping in a diverse society (What’s new in criminal justice) (7th ed.). Pearson.