Changing Social Media Rules For Cops

Police departments across the United States are rushing to keep up with the times. According to a report from the firm Forrester Research, more than 80% of Americans use social media web sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. When a Law Enforcement Officer uses one of the online outlets inappropriately, there can be serious legal ramifications.

Wichita Falls saw a similar situation several years ago. Wichita Falls Police Department Officer Jeremiah Love was accused of having inappropriate content on his Myspace page. Love lost his job because of the situation, and several pending criminal cases were compromised. Love says the content on his page were a joke.

Still, the WFPD does not have a specific policy on social media use by Officers. Love was accused of violating the Departments Civil Service Code. Across the country, many police departments have yet to catch up with the changing times.

Dallas is one exception. The Dallas Police Department issued new rules this week pertaining to social media use. The action comes after several officers had posted crime scene photos online, and a female officer uploaded a picture of herself in a g-string.

Under the new policy, Officers are prohibited from taking photos at crime scenes and sending them via e-mail, among other things. The goal is to respect Freedom of Speech, while at the same time preventing the image of the badge from being tarnished electronically.

All the measures are to prevent an Officer's character from being challenged in court, and to prevent situations where cases are dropped as happened in Wichita Falls.

Paul Harrop, Newschannel 6