This is a question asked often by police chiefs, administrators, PIOs, and others who are charged with the task of either posting information or monitoring the content posted. In addition, many have concerns about liability related to the content posted. Although this question seems somewhat difficult, the answer is quite simple if you follow these six rules.
1. Your agency should have a policy or develop written guidelines to address this important issue. It is difficult to cover everything in a policy. However, you should have general statements and sample content so those staff members posting information have a guide. This is an important consideration for your staff as well as the department.
2. Never post any information that is considered confidential or that has evidentiary value. You should steer clear of posting photos of any type that are taken as part of an investigation which will potentially be used as evidence. Examples include crime scene photos, fatality accident investigations, and similar incidents. A general photo of an accident scene warning motorists about the accident and the traffic should be ok. Photos of events, road closures, etc. should be fine as well. Depending on the state, a lot of the activity of a police department is considered an open, public record and there should not be any issues with information covered by the state's open records laws.
3. Use humor appropriately. The use of humor can increase your community's interaction with your department through social media. Comments about an unusual arrest or interesting circumstances of a call should be ok. However, use caution! Never poke fun at or make light of a serious situation involving someone getting hurt, children, animals, or some sacred cow from your community.
4. Be sensitive to your community norms. Use caution when posting something that might be considered outside your communities accepted norms and therefore potentially offensive. A police department from a very liberal community will generally have more latitude about acceptable posts than a police department from a conservative community.
5. When in doubt about the content you are about to post, get a second opinion. If you ever have any concerns about content, it makes sense to get a second opinion. You may want to develop a formal process of how this is handled which includes a supervisor or someone in the chain of command of the staff member posting. At the very least though, there should be someone internally or even someone in another department who is knowledgeable about social media postings who can offer sound advice.
6. When in doubt, don't post.
If these six simple rules are followed, you are less likely to have difficulties with any social media content you post. The best advice would be to use common sense. If you are just starting out, stick with facts about what is happening and also post stories about the good things the department is doing in the community and you will be safe. Get to posting and have fun!
Popular tags: Policy