Admittedly, I am not a very good chess player in the conventional definition of the game. I know what the pieces can do. I know that you have to play several moves ahead in your mind and consider what the ramifications of your moves will be on your opponent.
Your opponent does the exact same thing. Analyzes your current move, potential moves, and considers what moves he or she will put in play to deflect your offence and implement their strategy to their own advantage.
What does chess have to do with law enforcement's use of social media? Everything!
I have often used the challenge and strategy of a great chess match in how I respond to questions, criticism, and comments from the audience.
This isn’t always needed. When someone says, “Good morning” online, you know probably know right away that there is no sinister back thought to the gesture. But sooner or later, you’ll see the Tweet or Facebook post that causes that 6th sense tingle in your gut which makes you think, “Where is this going.”
Responding to the tough ones:
Time to play chess. Before you pound away on the keyboard and give your best corporate response, think of all the possible questions that may be in line for the next volley. Think about the times you’ve been in court and a lawyer takes you for a walk down the garden path. You know what I’m talking about and then you turn the corner and you get slammed in the face with the garden gate and you realize you didn’t even see the real question coming. Been there, done that.
Read the question and start playing chess. Formulate answers and questions that cut to the chase and get you to the heart of the matter.
Now, don’t just assume that it has to be a question or comment that can make for a great game of chess. You can use strategy in your own moves as well. This is rarely done and you can often see the results of a bad move as soon as they are made.
There are many examples of officers that have found themselves in hot water over posts they have made. Some that seemed innocent enough. And then there are others that you stand back and look at saying, “What was the officer thinking?”
Even the most innocent posts can be wrong if the timing is bad. Lets go back to the simple “Good morning” example. Not too long ago we had a serious crash in the morning commute that strangled one of our major arteries. Many people were steamed in the social space about being late for work, meetings, appointments. It would have been a bad time to say, “Good morning.” Even though the intention would have been right, the timing would have been poor. Good morning turned into, “Tough start to the day. Hope it gets better. Please be alert and safe always.”
Yes, everything can be misinterpreted, but a little extra caution and big picture thinking can save some serious problems.
Ask yourself before you send your message, “What is the worst possible thing that can happen.” Refine your post until the answer is, not much.