DES MOINES, Wash. – Social media is viewed by many as a great way to communicate, but police officers say that’s not always the case.
Officers are warning of how Twitter and Facebook posts can put the police and public in danger. Police work routinely sparks instant public curiosity of bystanders. In this social media age, pictures and video of that activity are instantly shared with the masses.
“We’re public officials in public places,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Doug Jenkins. “We don’t want to discourage the public in any way from [sharing images of us on the job,] but we want them to do it safely. We want them to do it smart.”
Jenkins says a rash of risky posts has made officers’ jobs more difficult. He says a recent incident included a bystander posting images of police locations during the pursuit of a suspect.
“The problem that we run into is that [the public is] putting that information out right away,” said Jenkins. “That can jeopardize the safety of the officers. It can also hinder the ability to capture the suspect that we’re looking for.”
It also makes standoff situations harder, according to police. Officers’ concerns over social media are not new. In 2014, the Washington State Patrol started a “Tweet Smart” campaign. Recently, however, police say the issue has been getting worse.
First Amendment advocates argue people should be free to broadcast public images as they see fit. But to ensure public safety, officers are asking people to use common sense.
The suggestion from Des Moines Police is to wait and post after a standoff or pursuit is over. The agency is also reminding people to keep themselves safe by not getting too close to pursuit or standoff operations.