In today’s world of screenshots, text messaging, 24 hour news cycles, and strained relationships between the public and Law Enforcement, it blows my mind when I see the lack of common sense when it comes to what LEOs post on Social Media. Put aside the fact that there are groups of people watching and waiting for you to mess up, when anyone within the Law Enforcement community places irresponsible statements on Facebook, Twitter, blogposts, Instagram, or any other form of Social Media, we are simply feeding the fire of hostility and danger that constantly lurks at our door. There are some basic Social Media rules of etiquette that we should all go by, but, like it or not, there are some extra guidelines for Law Enforcement Officers and their families.
Whenever two people come together and their behavior affects one another, you have etiquette. -Emily Post
Most of the below is common sense, but is worth repeating. Also, while I am specifically speaking to our Blue Line family, these rules work for anyone who uses Social Media. Remember, EVERYTHING online is Public and PERMANENT. Even Snapchat.
- Unless you are Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift, or Kim Kardashian, your Facebook, Twitter, InstaGram and ALL OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA (even MySpace-although the fact that I felt the need to even include MySpace is horrifying) should be private/locked.
This is not just for your safety, but for the safety of your family as well. We live in a fishbowl as LEOs and LEO families. People are watching us, both friend and foe. Only accept friend requests from people you know. Post pictures from vacation AFTER you return home. Again, all of this is common sense, but so important to the wellbeing and safety of ourselves and those we love.
- Don’t post pictures of/talk about doing you doing what you could potentially arrest someone else for.
This is mainly for the LEOs. No alcohol or talking about being drunk. Don’t boast about speeding, violence, etc. A) It’s not funny. B) You are presenting an image of someone who is a Public Servant. As Law Enforcement Officers, whether you or your family likes it or not, there is no such thing as “off-duty” in the eyes of those we serve. You are a defender and protector. You are a peacemaker. And your friends, neighbors, and people from your Tuesday lunch spot know it. As such, we don’t get the luxury being “off-duty.” Yes, we are human beings and everyone has a bad day, but be cognizant of who you are talking to, what you are saying, and what you are doing.
- Don’t make negative or derogatory comments about anyone or anything related to work.
Sorry. You don’t get to rant about your bad day or your co-worker or boss. No one should be doing that on Social Media sites, but Law Enforcement Officers specifically don’t get to make this mistake. Why? Because the “boss” isn’t just your immediate supervisor, your Chief, the Sheriff or Marshall. It’s the taxpayer you pulled over at lunch, it’s the thief you caught at 2AM and will testify against next month, and it’s the citizens you met this morning when you answered a Domestic Violence call at their home. In addition, have you read your department’s policy on social media? Do you know what you can and cannot lose time, or even worse, your job over? A Boston police officer was disciplined this summer over a post he made on Father’s Day. “Farther’s (sic) Day, the most confusing day in Roxbury.” If you read this blog at all, you know I am the Head Cheerleader for Team Law Enforcement, but not only does this LEO sound ignorant with his spelling error, but his comment is racist and lacks compassion and empathy. This is just one example of the fact that people are watching, and one irresponsible post can cost you your reputation and career.
- Keep your personal life, personal.
I am not talking about your kid’s 1st birthday party, or the cruise you and your spouse took last month, or even the post about the outrageous amount of money you just spent at Publix because your highschooler is literally eating you out of house and home. I am talking about your divorce proceedings, anything negative about your siblings, parents, kids, best friend, and arch-enemy. I am talking about the fact that anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law, a personnel review board hearing and the court of Public Opinion. Here’s the thing, nobody needs to know the truly private parts of your life and if you are honest with yourself, do you really want them to know? I know that breakups are hard, divorce is devastating, and kids are stupid, but at the end of the day (and your day in court) is what you just posted on Facebook something you are going to regret?
- Keep your “rants” PoPo appropriate.
I know, that red light is super long, and gas is through the roof expensive, and milk just went up again, and that football game was excruciatingly painful. But you do not get to smart off with comments that are unfitting for those who wear the badge. I know, sometimes I just want to “punch someone in the throat” too. But you arrest people for that kind of violence. Even in jest, you don’t get to talk like that or worse. Wishing ill OF ANY KIND onto someone else via social media, even if it is a joke, isn’t appropriate. Drunk driving is not funny. Death by drunk driving is even less humorous. Killing people is not funny. Hiring people to kill other people is not funny. Because it is real. And because everything can be misconstrued on Social Media. I get it, my husband’s humor is, at times, dark and raw. Super dark and super raw. And when he is with our LEO friends, it can get even darker and more raw. We have to laugh to maintain our sanity. But that is in the privacy of a dinner table with friends or in our home. Not on Facebook for someone we kinda know, but not really know to see and screenshot and share with 30 other people. This is the kind of thing that makes the news, that makes Law Enforcement look bad, and that fans that flame of distrust and ill will towards the Law Enforcement Community. I don’t care if you have been a part of the PoPo Nation for a year or a decade, these comments are not ok.
I say all of this because I care. Because as vigilant as we are in our everyday life when we are leaving our homes, with our kids, and in parking lots at night, sometimes it seems like we let our guard down completely when it comes to social media. You sit facing the door in restaurants, but when it comes to social media, you might as well be sitting with your back to the door and no back up weapon because you truly have no idea who is coming and going, even with strict security. Reputation can be as important as training. Officer Presence is a real thing. And even within our own circles, that presence and reputation are important. As an LEO wife, I want to know that the men and women serving alongside my husband can be trusted on the job. You character is a huge part of that. As taxpayers and “the Boss”, the citizens in your community want to know that you are above reproach and worthy to be a Peace Officer. Do yourself and those around you a favor and think before you post. You never know who is watching.
P.S. PoliceOne.com has a great article about this subject as well that I suggest you read.