Social media has definitely changed the way we live our lives. There are billions of users on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin. We rely on these sites to not only entertain us, but to stay informed because it connects us instantly to so much.
More recently, police agencies across the globe are utilizing social media in their efforts to alert the public about information and to stop crime. Police use Twitter to communicate with their communities by alerting them about traffic and snow closings. The public also uses Twitter to alert the police about accidents or to inform them about the location of a suspect or missing person and other criminal or mischievous activity. Police across Europe have even been using social media in their fight against terrorism by monitoring posts.
Many of the agencies that currently use social media believe it is a communication channel that other agencies should not ignore. It allows them to effectively disseminate information to a large audience while being able to receive specific information about certain occurrences. In order to encourage other police agencies to use social media, on March 22, law enforcement agencies around the world connected via Twitter to participate in a 24-hour Tweet-a-thon. At least 250 agencies around the world participated and used the hashtag: poltweet.
Many agencies have said that being on social media has improved their relationship with their communities. I believe it is a great idea that law enforcement agencies are on social media but guidelines need to be established in order to ensure this communication channel is being used effectively. It could also create more law enforcement positions because I am sure that you will need people monitoring these sites. I will be curious to see how social media will fit in with criminal cases and if it could change anything with “probable cause.”
Could you ever have “probable cause” from a Facebook post or Tweet? What do you think about police officers being on social media? Do you see any future legal issues?
PHOTO SOURCE: Richmond Police Department