Safe Social Networking

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Updated: Dec 24, 2019
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Safe Social Networking essay

The department supports the safe use of social networks to improve communication, collaboration, and the exchange of information and the effectiveness of investigations. This policy identifies possible departmental uses of social networks and establishes guidelines regarding personal web pages and social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, etc., when referring to the Police Department so as not to discredit or disrespect this Department or the city; to restrict the disclosure, either directly or indirectly, of any information related to criminal activities, investigations or legal proceedings in progress, accidents, violations of ordinances or laws, or other information to persons outside the department; and to ensure that all employees treat the official matter of the Police Department confidentially. This policy is not intended to address a particular form of social media; instead of social media in general, as advances in technology occur 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 reasonable restrictions on the behavior and appearance of employees and comply with those standards of conduct whether on or off duty.

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The actions of an employee should never discredit the Police Department nor should its conduct be detrimental to its efficient operation.

Employees of the Police Department have the right to have 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 affect the employment relationships of department for which loyalty and confidentiality are important, impedes the performance of duties, harms discipline and harmony among co-workers, or negatively affects the public perception of the department.

When reference is made to the Department or about it, a review of that reference is needed to ensure that such reference does not compromise the integrity of the Department and, therefore, undermine public confidence in this agency or in this profession. Therefore, it is a policy of the Police Department that employees are prohibited from publishing, transmitting and or disseminating any photograph, video or audio recording, images or images of logos, emblems, uniforms, and vehicles with or without a mark of the Police Department. Equipment or other material that specifically identifies the Police Department on any website or web page of social or personal networks, without the express written permission of the Chief of Police or his/her designee.

Employees who represent the City through social media or who participate in social media functions on the City’s websites must maintain a high standard of ethical conduct and professional decorum. Employees should remember that the content and messages posted on the city’s social media platforms are public and may be perceived and cited as official statements of the city by the media or the general public.

Social media offers a potentially valuable means to help the department and its staff to comply with the community, problem solving, research, crime prevention, and related objectives, therefore, may be used in the following professional manner. Employees must observe and comply with all restrictions of copyright.

  1. Dissemination and commitment to the community (ie., 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 (ie, 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 (ie, 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. Post 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 from databases of restricted access, information from an investigation or criminal or administrative proceeding in progress, 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 that affects the public perception of the Department.
  6. Publication of comments in reference to suspects, detainees or citizens who have business with the Department
  7. Make 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 representative.
  8. Publish or link 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 the hours of service, 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 will include the name of the social networking site, the secret name that will be used for the profile and all the login information, including the password. This will not apply when the profile or secret account is being used for intelligence gathering and communications do not occur between the member and others.

Employees should consider the possible adverse consequences of publications on the Internet, such as undermining the credibility of an employee or opening the door for questioning in civil or criminal proceedings, future jobs and embarrassing situations, both public and private.

Employees are reminded that they must exercise good judgment and demonstrate personal responsibility by choosing to participate in social networking sites.

Employees should expect the Department to 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 or knowledge of a publication or of any website or website that violates the provisions of this policy or other written directives should notify his/her supervisor immediately.

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