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January 13, 2011
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Video: Calif. Chief on the dangers of Facebook

"With one click of the mouse, all safety precautions went to the wind," the Chief said at the SMILE Conference

Not long ago, a single officer in Santa Monica, Calif. pulled over a suspected drunk driver early in the morning.

What followed was a gunfight in which a police officer was shot in the hip and sent to the hospital. The suspect fled the scene and was later shot and wounded before he was detained by a SWAT team.

As the department did their investigation, they found out that the suspect in the case, who had been sent to the came hospital as the cop, was a previous felon, had been in jail for murder, and was a known gang member.

Watch the video for the detailed story

“He was really a bad guy,” said Santa Monica Police Chief Tim Jackman. “We made the determination that we weren’t going to publicize who our officer was or where he was. And that was good.”

But when the Chief got home later that night, he logged onto Facebook. Among the comments he found one from a retired officer who had recently moved away to Idaho.

“Not knowing what our concerns were down here,” the chief said. “[The retiree] identified the wounded police officer by name to the world on Facebook.”

With one click of the mouse from a well-intentioned retired officer, all of the department’s safety precautions went to the wind.

Although it’s difficult to arrive at a policy that addressed the issue entirely, especially when it comes to officers who are no longer with the department, it’s something officers need to be careful of and it’s a testament to the potential pitfalls of social media.

“It’s a very uncomfortable position to be in,” the Chief said. “To know that your officer has been disclosed.”

What do you think can be done to tigten up the wild world of social media?

Read more about Chief Tim Jackman here and follow him on Twitter.

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