December 22, 2009
A reminder to patrol your social networking pages
PoliceOne Senior Editor Doug Wyllie
Following the chaotic first few hours of the Fort Hood attack, initial reports poured in that Sgt. Kimberly Munley was the officer who had shot Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. Moments later, all the news networks were scrambling to find out anything they could about her.
The photo that soon popped up on every cable news network show and major newspaper Web site (as well as on PoliceOne) was attributed to her “profile” on the Twitter social networking service.
PoliceOne Contributor Shawn Hughes sent us an e-mail within which there is an excellent tech tip.
“I’m watching CNN headline news. The Officer they are saying ended the situation is being profiled. They seem to be digging for anything they can say or offer about the Officer; that’s common. What is significant, though, they are showing her Twitter page, her picture from her eBay profile, and got their personal information about her from what appears to be her entry in the resume service hireahero.com. There has been a lot of discussion on social sites coming back to bite you in the ass. If had she a picture of herself with a beer can and pointing a patrol rifle, wonder what they would be saying about her instead of her being a ‘hero?’ I’m not saying those kind of pics are bad. They are a rite of passage and 99 percent of Officers have at least one. But, yesterday at this time, this officer was wondering what was for dinner that night. Now, transnational news media are scrutinizing (in heavy rotation) what she’s been ‘Tweeting.’ I’m not giving up my Facebook page, but I am definitely going to go look at what I have up with a very, very critical eye here in about a minute.”
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman puts it this way in a gem of wisdom buried deep in the Appendix of On Combat: “If I do what I am considering, would I want my family to know about it?” Too many times in the past 12 months there have been reports that officers have been disciplined (and demonized in their local papers) for images and comments made on their personal social networking pages. Remember, while those pages are “your space” they are also visible to anyone savvy enought to surf the Internet.
For an excellent list of other do’s and don’t for cops on Internet social networks, check out this recent article by Dr. Richard Weinblatt.