Social Media a Friend and Foe of Law Enforcement

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Updated: 2/11/2013 6:52 pm

When it comes to social networking, it can be a valuable tool for police but it can also hamper an investigation. Not since the telephone has there been a technological advancement that has made it easier for the public to communicate with the police.

Just last week, someone was able to get the right information about a traffic law by asking a question on the PPD Facebook page.

“Facebook and other social media is a great avenue,” said Lieutenant Paul Manning of the Pocatello Police Department. “The flipside of speculation and supposition, the flipside of it is you can also put out very accurate and factual information.”

It’s the speculation and supposition of social media that has local law enforcement concerned. In each of the most recent high profile suspicious death cases, the Public Information Officer in charge has commented on the rampant misinformation observed in the social media.

“We have a major incident and it hits Facebook almost immediately,” continued Lieutenant Manning. “Our investigation is like a puzzle and interviews are a piece of the puzzle. Evidence is a piece of the puzzle and we have to put all these pieces of the puzzle together before we release a factual statement.”

Law enforcement does not have the power to gag social media users and so policing it is not even an option.

“I don’t know what can be done,” said Manning. “That’s the reason that I made the release. I’m just pleading to the public to not speculate. To not make suppositions of what you think happened and to just wait for the pieces of the puzzle to come together and wait for us to make a factual statement of what really happened.”

Again, the Pocatello Police are not against the use of social media. They just encourage you to do it responsibly.

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