Officer “Smith” has a blog entry up about a hypothetical “excessive force” situation. His sentiments have been echoed by many law enforcement officers:
When the general public sees any such police action on the news, they need to make sure they know all the facts before they cry murder or excessive force. I can’t charge someone with murder just because I saw it on TV. I have to investigate and obtain more information before I can claim murder.
Then he says:
Unfortunately, a large segment of our local population is uneducated or poorly educated, and cannot come to such educated conclusions. As a result, any action that looks even remotely excessive will be decried as excessive.
So what can a blog or other online interactive presence do to defend police actions to people who probably don’t read the blog, and even if they did, would dismiss it as just so much propaganda?
As long as there is a human being behind it, trying to make a solid connection with the community, the people who do read it and respond positively will help defend the agency.
Think about it: a chief who is open-minded enough to encourage online interaction instills that culture throughout the department. The department working to improve community relations is perceived to care about the people it serves–not to have a “loose cannon” culture eager to smack down any and all dissenters.
Even if the local news outlets pursue arguments against excessive force, the department that uses social media is in a better position to offer its own outlook on what happened, to balance the negative opinions and thus to ensure citizens can make informed decisions–about officials, bond issues, and other poll items affecting law enforcement–on election day.