Weeks after Macon police started posting updates on Facebook and Twitter, the department is drafting a policy to govern officers’ use of social networking websites.
Chief Mike Burns said no specific incident spurred the move to draft a policy.
“We want to stay proactive,” he said. “Now that we’re getting into the social media, we want a more in-depth policy.”
Certain online posts could negatively impact cases, Burns said.
“Anything they say can be used when it comes to testifying,” he said. “Anything that’s put on the Web, anybody can see.”
Burns said jurors could be influenced by officers’ opinions posted online. Officers’ credibility also could be damaged by posts.
Another aim of the policy is to prevent the department, police uniform or the police profession from being degraded, he said.
“I don’t want anything (posted) that would jeopardize the integrity of the department,” Burns said.
Spokeswoman Jami Gaudet is reviewing sample policies and is writing a draft that will be presented to Burns for approval.
“We’re looking at something we can mold to fit here,” Burns said.
Examples of behavior prohibited in the sample policies include disclosing confidential or law enforcement-sensitive information in online posts, Gaudet said.
Other prohibited behavior could include information about investigations or interactions that officers have with the public in a professional capacity, she said.
Burns said he hopes to have the policy in place in the coming weeks.
A social networking policy became effective at the Jones County Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 6, said Maj. Barbara Burnette.
“It was just something we needed to do,” she said. No specific incident spurred the policy going into effect.
Burnette said the policy prohibits any posts that would be detrimental to deputies performing their duties or maintaining professionalism.
No violations have been reported.
Warner Robins police are in the process of drafting and making revisions to a social networking policy, said Tabitha Pugh, a police spokeswoman.
The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office is reviewing other law enforcement agencies’ policies and is considering drafting a social networking policy, spokesman Sgt. Sean DeFoe said.
Deputies must now abide by a professional code of conduct when making online posts.
The code of conduct provides rules for what deputies can say in public and how they conduct themselves, he said.
In Monroe County, although deputies don’t have a specific policy governing social networking, their code of conduct applies whether deputies are in or out of uniform, spokeswoman Allison Selman-Willis said.
“We’re confident our code of conduct policy really encompasses what you should and shouldn’t do,” she said.
Selman-Willis said it’s likely that the sheriff’s office will draft a more specific policy at some point in the future.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.