The development of sound policy is integral to efficient agency operations. As with many new technologies and issues, the use of social media requires a well-articulated policy that addresses the unique concerns and functions of a law enforcement agency. It is important to involve key stakeholders during policy development such as representatives from the legal and communications office for your agency or unit of government.
Five Key Policy Considerations
- Scope. Determine what areas the policy needs to cover. Once the scope is determined, consider the areas below that apply to the areas you have chosen to cover in your policy.
- Official Use. Social media tools can be used for many purposes and are valuable for many day to day operational activities in law enforcement agencies. It is integral that authorization for and administration of any department sanctioned sites are clearly articulated.
- Personal Use. Content posted by law enforcement, even off-duty and under strict privacy settings, has the potential to be disseminated broadly and fall into the hands of defense attorneys, criminals, and members of the community. Any improper postings can ultimately affect an individual’s credibility, employment status, and their agency as a whole.
- Legal Issues. Issues such as First Amendment rights, records retention and public records laws, and other federal and state statutes must be considered while crafting a policy. Many legal issues surrounding social media have not yet been settled within the court system, so having clear guidelines in place becomes even more imperative.
- Related Policies. Many issues surrounding social media use may be resolved by citing other policies that are already in place within your agency, including Internet Use, Personal Mobile Devices, Electronic Messaging, Code of Conduct, and Media Relations. The IACP’s National Law Enforcement Policy Center offers model policies on these topics.
Below you will find resources to assist in the development of a social media policy.