Law enforcement is trying to adapt. Trying to figure out the different facets of this thing we call social media. Some embrace it, some accept it, some fight it kicking and screaming. But the bottom line is ignoring it won’t make it go away. We are lucky, we haven’t had to really deal with this, but some agencies have: how to handle information about an ongoing event being tweeted and posted by citizen observers. I think the first knee jerk reaction from most agencies is just ignoring it. But is that the smartest thing to do? Because when you post information you want to get out, what if everyone else just ignored it?
A recent case comes to mind. While on the other side of the pond, this case shows how we still need to be cautious not to jump the gun to get the information out. Basically, the Manchester Police in the UK tweeted out they found a missing girl safe, problem was they hadn’t told the “mum” yet who saw the post (click here for news article
But I wanted to take this one step further. These ideas don’t really have any answers yet by me but gives us something to think about and have in the back of our mind how we’d react.
It’s a digital world, news is instant. Sometimes I hear a call go out and look on Twitter and people are already talking about before I know about it. They might be passing it in their car, they might work in a building with a window looking out on the incident, however they see it, and they are sometimes there before us. So how do we confirm the information, do we ignore those tweets, do we tell people “it’s under investigation”? What about pictures of scenes being tweeted out or posted to Facebook?
There are so many questions yet each answer has to be incident specific. There is no blanket response or policy. Each case has to be looked at individually and an appropriate response has to happen. But here’s the catch, it has to be somewhat quick. No longer can we sit on things to think it through, waiting until later today or tomorrow morning. By then it could go viral, by then it could be too late. Each agency has to have someone they trust to make the right decision on the response they make on behalf of the entire agency.