Policing Turned Upside Down

Upside Down Police Car PIn light of the recent discourse about police use of force across the country, one of the biggest fears that I have is that one of the officers I am privileged to work with will hesitate to use force when it should be used and that failure to use force will result in the injury or death of the officer or another person.  I am sure other Police Chiefs across the country share a similar concern.

Recently, a disgusting photo surfaced on social media which showed a Detective with the Birmingham, Alabama Police Department knocked out on the pavement after having been pistol whipped by a suspect after a traffic stop.  What made the situation even worse, if it could be worse, was that these photos were posted on social media mocking the officer.  I couldn’t help but think about this officer’s family and how those photos affected them, especially since they saw the photos before the department had time to contact them about the incident.  

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Wearing Body Worn Cameras Should be Mandatory

Body cameraIn general, law enforcement agencies have resisted reforms even when those reforms have been proven to be effective in saving lives, providing better service or improving inefficiencies.  Resisted might be too strong of a word.  We have been slow to adopt changes even though these changes are for the better. 

As an example, only recently has most agencies adopted a mandatory seat belt policy for officers.  Even today, some departments do not require their officers to wear a seat belt even though it has been proven that wearing a seat belt saves lives; even though most departments work to educate the public about this life saving device; even though all states have a mandatory seat belt law.

Similarly, body armor is a lifesaver for police officers, yet many departments do not provide this equipment for their officers or have a mandatory wear policy.  A recent survey suggested that over 90% of police departments now require officers to wear body armor compared to 59% in 2009, which is a big improvement.

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Transparency: A Must Have for Law Enforcement

In years past, many police departments operated in almost complete secrecy.  The community knew very little about what the department was doing except in the most extreme cases involving terrible tragedies.  The culture of law enforcement perpetuated this belief that citizens were better off, and so were police departments, if citizens were kept in the dark.  As times changed and the thought process of law enforcement leaders evolved, we began to see the value of community involvement and partnerships.  The birth of community oriented policing and all of the off shoots of that movement opened up communication with citizens like never before.  Law enforcement held community meetings to talk about crime, disseminated information via email lists and was more open to sharing information than ever before.  Today, thanks to social media, information sharing and transparency have become synonymous.  This transparency is truly law enforcement’s best friend.

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Periscope as a Crime Fighting Tool

PeriscopeI ran across an interesting article about the Bengarulu Police Department in India deciding to use Periscope.  That part of the story was not noteworthy.  In fact, many departments are using Periscope to broadcast press conferences and various community events.  The Dallas Police Department recently used Periscope to broadcast their press conference about the gunman who attacked their department.  Check out this video about the Boca Raton Police Department using Periscope.  In an interesting turn of events, the Police Commissioner of Bengarulu, M.N. Reddi, would like citizens to use Periscope to live-stream crimes in progress via Periscope.  Is this practical or should it even be considered?

Commissioner Reddi is a #LESM influencer in his country and has over 290,000 followers on Twitter @CPBlr, so when he speaks, people listen.  But, does what he says have any practical value?  Law enforcement has always asked our citizens to be good witnesses without putting themselves at risk.  The question is would using Periscope to live-stream crimes in progress put citizens at risk? 

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Public Shaming on Social Media

Over the last several years, Social media has evolved and is now being widely used to “out” people or “shame” them for various infractions or perceived transgressions.  Husbands shame their wives; wives shame their husbands; and parents shame their children.  One of the most infamous shaming of a teenager happened in 2012 when a dad read a letter and then shot his daughter’s computer.  Sadly, a 13 year old teenager recently killed herself after her father posted a video of him punishing her on YouTube.

SM Blocks

Racists Getting Fired on Tumblr has a mission to bring attention to racist comments on social media and contact the employer of those who made them.  There is a widespread trend in California by many to shame those who are using excessive water or violating the water restrictions in the state.  The hashtag #droughtshaming has been used extensively

CNN had a good piece identifying numerous examples of social media shaming.  They identified some of the long term consequences affecting the offenders.  In most of these cases, individuals are the ones doing the shaming.  What happens when the one doing the shaming is the local police department?

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A Good #SM Policy Protects Officers & Departments

According to a 2014 survey completed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), over 95% of agencies that responded to the survey say they use social media.  This percentage has increased significantly since the beginning of the survey several years ago.  However, only 71% of departments say they have a social media policy.  In 2010, the year of the first social media survey, this gap was even wider.  At that time, only 35.2% of departments had a social media policy.  Although the percentage of departments that have a social media policy has risen dramatically, one question still remains:  Do the departments that have a social media policy have a good one?

This can be a difficult question to answer.  There are many law enforcement agencies with good social media policies.  Although good social media policies vary in length and content, there are at least three parts that should be in every policy.

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