Police Improperly Punished For Posting Pictures Of Perps On Social Platforms

Police in Detroit have been told that it is no longer appropriate to post photographs of suspects on social networking sites and tweeting about them on Twitter. It seems that posting pictures, names and details about suspects in various crimes across the city might be prejudicial to the due process of law.

Commander Jeffery Romeo from the Office of Civil Rights along with the Deputy Chief Janice Butler of the Civil Rights Integrity Bureaux said in a notice which they issued to the Force that –

“When using social media, eg, facebook, Twitter, et cetera department members shall be mindful that their postings become part of the world wide electronic domain.”

One member of the Detroit police was put on desk duty after having placed pictures of a middle aged suspect in a stand-off with police. Movies were also posted online and finally appeared on Facebook. As every-one becomes more tech savvy so every-one has access to the means of recording and re-distributing sound, pictures and moving images electronically. As much as any-one else police officers carry mobile phones, blackberries and androids and they also communicate with one-another, their friends and families on social networking sites.



Source – seokchanyun

Teachers are another group who are being warned about their internet activities. Some teachers are being disciplined or fired for the things that they are saying about their students. Examples include the teacher who was reprimanded for talking about how thick her students were in a blog. She didn’t mention anybody by name but anybody from her class reading her blog would have been able to identify which pupil she was talking about. While teachers can be fired for making comments about the children in their charge, the pupils’ parents and their behavior in general it doesn’t seem as if police who publish scenes of crime details, photos and movies or pictures of suspects which they take while serving the community will face any stringent discipline except for being made to sit at their desks.

While it might hurt some kids’ feelings to be criticized online by the pedagogue who’s supposed to be teaching you firing the teacher because of that seems a little extreme. On the other hand, putting up pictures of suspects engaged in criminal activity taken while the officers were on duty on unofficial social networking site seems likely to be detrimental to the public interest and to justice on the whole. Any prisoner brought to trial would rightly be able to claim that the publication of their picture, name et cetera could reasonably lead to the jury being prejudiced against them. But what happens if a police officer is found to be doing this? Desk duty.

The questions don’t stop there either, Posting movies of people in public without their expressed consent isn’t illegal in and of itself but what about the victims? Don’t they have a right to privacy? If the footage were to be used in evidence it would be powerful so surely keeping it out of the legal process and publishing it yourself must be withholding evidence surely? And who does the footage belong to if they were working at the time? If it belongs to the police as it was filmed on their time then keeping it is theft, if footage filmed on police time doesn’t belong to the police then they were working independently on police time, surely a gross dereliction of duty?

When we talk about social media we tend to think of it rather differently than we do about many other forms of social interaction but if we heard a police officer talking in a bar, telling all who would listen that about the people he had arrested that day, their names. showing them pictures and what they ended up being charged with wouldn’t we report them for misconduct? If a doctor or social worker did anything even vaguely similar we’d call for their immediate firing and an investigation into how we could prevent it from happening again. But when it’s the police, we just tut tut.

Guest blogger Dan Cash doesn’t use his digital camera to gather evidence to publish online, although he likes to think his laptop deals justice with the power of his words!

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