8 privacy reminders for cops about living in the fishbowl

Given the current state of events in our profession, we need to teach new officers how to be prepared for life in the fishbowl


If you’ve worked in law enforcement for longer than a day, you’ve heard someone say, “I remember when we used to be able to ________.” As the years go on, the lists of “we used to be able to ________” gets longer. Given the current state of events in our profession, we need to realize that the instead of teaching new officers all the “we used to’s” we need to prepare them for life in the fishbowl.

Our patrol cars are equipped with GPS units that can tell how fast we’re driving, if our headlights are activated, if we’re wearing our seatbelts, and if we’re turning corners too fast. Our squad cameras are recording all the time, and most new cameras record up to 60 seconds prior to being activated. Everyone has a smart phone with a camera ready and waiting to film “police action.”

Most of us expect to relinquish some degree of privacy while driving in our squad car or interacting with members of the public, but as a profession, we have not prepared ourselves for life in the fishbowl.

All you have to do is read the newspaper or watch the news from time to time and you will read about members of our profession who have been disciplined for everything from Facebook posts to sending inappropriate text messages while at work. Below are a few tips to keep in mind while living in the fishbowl — working your job in the profession of law enforcement in this modern era.

  1. Conduct yourself as if you’re always being watched — because you are.
  2. Tell your immediate family members to conduct themselves as if they are always being watched — because they are.
  3. Do not post anything on any website that you are not willing to answer for. There is no such thing as anonymous when posting stuff online.
  4. Remember everything you do off-duty is also subject to public scrutiny.
  5. Consider not having a social media account. God forbid you are involved in a high-profile incident and the media — or those who would seek to do you harm — find that and begin harassing you, your friends, or family members that they were able to find through social media.
  6. Remember that the record button is always on even when you think it’s not.
  7. Check websites like Spokeo to see if your personal information is listed. If so you can contact them and they will remove your information.
  8. Remember that you chose to be a public servant. Very public.

We used to be able to do things and without worrying about being watched all the time, but that’s no longer the case. Our family members and friends have also joined us in the fishbowl because of technology and the public’s hunger for information. Keeping these eight tips in mind will help you and those you care about thrive and stay safe in this great profession.

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