Protecting Officers Online, Off Duty: How Police Chiefs Can Safeguard Officers with Policy Guidance on Social Networking

The headlines have become far too common: “Facebook Photos Lead to Internal Police Investigation”; “Police Investigate Report of Officer Posting Photo of Dead Body on Facebook”; and “Cop Says Facebook Postings Got Him Fired.”

These headlines reveal cases where officers not only lost their jobs but damaged their credibility and the credibility of the police agencies for which they work or worked. To say the headlines are simply embarrassing ignores the very real and lasting effect these cases will have on interagency trust and cooperation, public perception of professionalism and integrity, and even operational and officer safety. Increasingly, police chiefs are recognizing the need to protect their officers online on and off duty with policy, guidance, and training.