|"Social Media and Felony Stupid"|
Steve, who is the president of the Long Beach POA, pointed out that over the past few years the phenomenon of social media has spread across the nation. Many officers use social media extensively and do so in a carefree manner as if the information being exchanged was private and confidential. Some officers shoot from the hip and say what they want to say without regard to possible ramifications which can be easily linked back to their employment.
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Unlike the "old days" when the bravado and boisterous rants did not go beyond the locker room or expressing frustrations and anger vented over a cup of coffee did not go beyond partners, in the social media era information explodes via a massive searchable system which creates a permanent record of the statements which are then available to a vast readership including internal affairs and the media.
One of the most explosive issues in the trial of four officers accused of beating Rodney King, and later used in the trial for violating King's civil rights, was a text message written on the in-car computer where one of the accused officers likened a "domestic dispute among blacks to the movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist.'" That explosive statement coupled to another statement, "I haven't beaten anyone this bad in a long time," was admitted as evidence and the prosecution used it to show "motive and bias." In a more recent example, the disastrous ramifications after a police officer described his job as a "human waste disposal" following his involvement in a controversial officer involved shooting have been dramatic.
Steve discussed the trend of management to use social media posts as evidence in investigations including promotional consideration. He\ ewxplained how some threats can and do result in arrests and detentions. He addressed key issues which police unions should consider incorporating into their communications vehicles to the membership and offered some training and education based strategies to prevent the misuse of social media.