“Social Media: Establishing Criteria for Law Enforcement Use” is an article which was written by Robert D. Stuart on the official FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. It discusses one of the most controversial questions regarding the safety and privacy of officers. The relevance of this topic cannot be overestimated because, at present times, social media have become an essential part of the modern Internet. Their influence on life is enormous; for this reason, important facilities, such as law enforcement agencies, should be careful about using it. At the beginning of the article, the author tries to understand the phenomenon of social media and apply it to law enforcement. After that, Stuart attempts to address the main problems that arise from the use of it by officers because inappropriate information can be leaked through online posts. Then the author develops a solution on whether their social media activity should be restricted and on what terms it must be done.
Before proceeding with discussing this matter, it would be important to address the significance of reputation. Reputation is a rational factor and is formed only on the basis of experience of repeated interaction between the facility and its clients. For this reason, people perceive the department and consciously compare it with their own encounters and authoritative opinions of experts. In general terms, reputation can be defined as a set of public opinions about the merits and faults of an organization. In relation to these opinions, people make decisions on whether they should trust it or interact with it. For this reason, the main goal of reputation management in law enforcement departments is to reduce the amount of negative information.
As a rule, the negative behavior of the employees in government agencies and departments on social media causes a great public backlash. In addition, it often damages the impression of the facility; therefore, reputational losses are inevitable. Negative behavior can be defined as a violation of generally accepted norms of morality, as well as the infringement of official ethics and requirements. For instance, posting pictures with “seized drug evidence can be harmful to the ongoing prosecution of a case because prosecutors should be consulted before evidence is shared with the public” (Stuart, 2013, para. 10). News articles about such cases are quickly spread on the Internet and are freely available. As a consequence, the work productivity of the department also suffers because the management fires employees who breached these ethical values. Moreover, the public forms an adverse belief on the activities of law enforcement agencies and is less likely to trust it in the future.
A person who has damaged the reputation of his or her workplace on social media is most often perceived by other users as a representative of this organization. It is often the case that only after violations, the management begins to think about appropriate restrictions in order to prevent such events from happening ever again. Therefore, the employees are reprimanded, sometimes even fired, and their colleagues are blocked from accessing social media and are threatened with different forms of punishment. This approach can be considered as incorrect in terms of employee loyalty to the company since tough measures were introduced before the implementation of any rules. In addition, such a severe method can make the impression that the freedom of employees is limited. The workers do not feel trusted anymore, and their productivity is likely to decrease. That is why the departments should suggest an approach to its employees that will be perceived positively and clearly considered by them as a necessity for the future of the agency.
In this regard, Stuart (2013) believes that it is necessary to train staff to use social media appropriately. The employees should communicate with their colleagues and friends in a way that will be not only safe but also useful for the reputation of law enforcement. For instance, the researcher suggests providing training that will follow two essential steps, where the first one would be addressing “general computer, Internet, and social media security and privacy issues” (Stuart, 2013, para. 16). The second step is more complicated since it includes considering the practical application of the policy on the use of social media. However, aside from teaching, it is also essential to regulate the department’s activity on the Internet. For instance, management can formally collect and maintain data on the accounts of social media. This information should also be frequently updated. Furthermore, it is also vital to develop and include in the work plan the policies on maintaining personal accounts of employees and employees in social networks, organize lectures by specialists on this topic.
Including such regulations that oblige the employee to comply with the rules of communication on the Internet in the work routine can certainly improve the situation. In other words, these measures will make it possible to form the correct behavior of officers on the Internet, thereby reducing reputational risks for law enforcement. In conclusion, it would appear that Stuart managed to do thorough research on this topic and provide appropriate solutions that could be implemented by agencies.
Stuart, R. D. (2013). Social media: Establishing criteria for law enforcement use. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 82(2), 1-3.