Safe Social Networking

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The department supports the safe use of social networks to improve communication, collaboration, exchange of information, and the effectiveness of investigations. This policy identifies potential departmental uses of social networks and establishes guidelines pertaining to personal web pages and social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. These guidelines apply when referring to the Police Department, so as to not discredit or show disrespect towards the Department or the city; to restrict disclosure, either directly or indirectly, of any information related to criminal activities, ongoing investigations or legal proceedings, accidents, violations of ordinances or laws, or other information to persons outside the Department; and to ensure that all employees treat the Police Department’s affairs confidentially.

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This policy is not intended to address a particular form of social media, but social media in general, as technology progresses and new tools emerge.

Professionalism, ethics, and integrity are paramount in the law enforcement community. To achieve and maintain the highest level of public respect, the Department must impose restrictions on the behaviour and appearance of employees and uphold these standards of conduct whether on or off duty.

An employee’s actions should never discredit the Police Department or be detrimental to its efficient operation.

Police Department employees have the right to own websites or personal sites and are free to express themselves as private citizens on social networking sites to the extent that their speech does not impede job performance, workplace relationships, workplace discipline and harmony, or negatively affect public perception of the department.

When reference is made to the Department, it is crucial to review that reference to ensure that it does not compromise the integrity of the Department or undermine public confidence in the agency or profession. Therefore, Police Department policy prohibits employees from publishing, transmitting, or disseminating any photograph, video, audio recording, images, logos, emblems, uniforms, vehicles, equipment, or other material that specifically identifies the Police Department on any website or social or personal network, without the express written permission of the Chief of Police or his/her designee.

Employees representing the City through social media or participating in social media functions on the City’s websites must maintain a high standard of ethical conduct and professional decorum. It is important for employees to remember that content and messages posted on the city’s social media platforms are public and may be perceived and quoted as official city statements by the media or the general public.

Social media offers a potentially valuable tool for helping the department and its staff engage with the community, problem-solve, conduct research, prevent crime, and attain related objectives. Therefore, it may be used professionally. Employees must observe and comply with all copyright restrictions.

  1. Dissemination and commitment to the community (i.e., provide advice on crime prevention, request advice on unresolved crimes, share data on crimes, etc.).
  2. Use it as a research tool to search for evidence or additional information in connection with an investigation (i.e., missing persons, wanted persons, gang involvement, online crimes, photos or videos of a crime posted online by an observer, covert operations, etc.).
  3. Make weather-sensitive notifications (i.e., natural disasters, major critical incidents, weather-related emergencies, road closures, missing or endangered persons, etc.).
  4. Recruitment efforts.
  5. Other uses approved by the Chief of Police or his designee.

When using social networks, employees should keep in mind that their speech becomes part of the global electronic domain. Therefore, employees must not post any material on the internet that discredits or could adversely affect the efficiency or integrity of the Department. Such actions may be considered improper conduct and subject to disciplinary action.

The following activities are specifically prohibited:

  1. Use of the name, logo, patch, badge, uniforms, marked or unmarked vehicles of the Police Department, or any other property of the agency, or any other identification symbol, without the express permission of the Chief of Police or his/her representative.
  2. Publish, transmit, and/or disseminate photographs or videos of the official training of the agency, activities including scenes of crimes or accidents, or tasks related to work, without the express permission of the Chief of Police or his/her designee.
  3. Posting a photograph with the uniforms of the Police Department, or a similar outfit that may be mistakenly identified as an official uniform.
  4. Publish, transmit, or otherwise disclose or disseminate confidential or proprietary information obtained by reason of one’s authority or employment with the Department, which includes, among others, confidential information or protected by copyright information, restricted access database information, information from ongoing criminal or administrative investigations, or photographs of suspects, detainees, or evidence without the express permission of the Chief of Police or his/her designee.
  5. Publication of negative comments regarding the internal operations of the Police Department, or the specific conduct of supervisors or colleagues, which affect the public perception of the Department.
  6. Publication of comments in reference to suspects, detainees, or citizens who have business with the Department.
  7. Making statements, speeches, appearances, and endorsements that can reasonably be considered representative of the views or charges of the Department without the express permission of the Chief of Police or his/her representative.
  8. Publish or link to sexual, violent, racial, or ethically derogatory elements, comments, references, links, images, illustrations, videos, or other material in a manner that associates such content with the Knoxville Police Department, the City of Knoxville, or any employee or agent thereof, unless expressly approved by the Chief of Police or his designee.
  9. Public publication, tweets, or blogs, or any other related or similar activity during service hours, unless it is for official purposes of the Department.

When an employee attempts to use a social media profile or other electronic account to facilitate an investigation, and the account or profile serves as a platform to communicate with potential suspects, witnesses, or informants, the employee must obtain written approval from their immediate supervisor. The written request should include the name of the social networking site, the alias that will be used for the profile, and all login information, including the password. This requirement does not apply when the profile or alias account is utilized for intelligence gathering and no direct communication occurs between the member and others.

Employees should contemplate the potential adverse consequences of online publications. These may impact the employee’s credibility, invite questioning in civil or criminal proceedings, affect future employment opportunities, and result in embarrassing situations in both public and private spheres.

Employees are reminded to exercise good judgment and demonstrate personal responsibility when participating in social networking sites.

Employees should anticipate that the Department may have access to any information created, transmitted, downloaded, exchanged, or discussed in a public online forum at any time, without prior notice.

Any employee who has knowledge of a publication or website that violates the provisions of this policy or other written directives should report to their supervisor immediately.

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Safe Social Networking. (2019, Dec 24). Retrieved from