Law enforcement agencies are asking citizens to “Tweet Smart” during emergencies.
“Please don’t tweet about the movements of responding police officers, or post pictures,” said Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “Sooner or later we’ll have an emergency where the suspect is watching social media. That could allow an offender to escape, or possibly even cost an officer their life.”
The agencies’ concern began to grow after watching events in Moncton, New Brunswick and Portland, Ore.
“We watched these incidents as they unfolded on social media. In both cases, there was real-time information posted by individuals that could have compromised officer safety,” said Chief Bret Farrar of the Lakewood Police Department.
Along with not posting information about police movements, posting pictures can also put officers at risk.
“If it’s safe to do so, go ahead and take pictures of our deputies in action,” said Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer. “We’re very proud of the work they do. We’d simply ask that you wait to post those pictures until the emergency is over.”
In fact, pictures posted after the emergency can help investigators determine what happened as the event unfolded.
Here are some suggested dos and don’ts for the use of social media in emergencies.
• Do get to a safe place and call 911 if possible. Live telephone calls to dispatchers are law enforcement’s best source of real-time information in an emergency.
• Do feel free to let family and friends know you’ve reached safety.
• Do feel free to warn friends if you have first-hand knowledge of a developing emergency.
• Don’t tweet or post about the movements of police, or post pictures of officers. Even what seems like vague information could be used by a criminal familiar with the area.
• Don’t endanger yourself to get a picture, no matter how compelling.
• Don’t spread rumors. If you’re not sure, don’t post, tweet or re-tweet.
• Do feel free to tweet about the response and post pictures after the emergency is over.
Although the term is “Tweet Smart,” the advice applies to any social media platform.