Social media use questionable in law enforcement
When his Facebook status bar prompted Anthony Easterling, “What’s on your mind?” the Delaware police officer was quick to share it.
According to an article from USA Today, Officer Easterling of Wilimington, Del., is facing possible consequences for a questionable post on his Facebook a few days after the Fourth of July reaching 1,346 of his friends.
“A word to the wise never get drunk and trip off of meds and call a cop a n***** results broken jaw and criminal charges……WPD for life,” wrote Easterling, who is black.
Police Chief Michael Szczerba had originally stated the post would concern him if someone filed a complaint but changed his mind this past week.
He called the department’s Office of Professional Standards to evaluate the Facebook post.
Szczerba said the department does not have a specific policy about what an officer can and cannot say on social media.
But on July 10, the city’s administrative board approved a social media policy, saying it was not in response to Easterling’s questionable post but had been an issue under discussion throughout the past few months.
Because they did not know what inspired the online message, both city officials and the chief of police declined to comment about the appropriateness of the post.
The state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights prohibits the city from releasing information regarding Easterling’s rank or time of service during the investigation of his post, Rich Neumann, communications director for Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker, told USA Today.
The issue emphasizes the grey line between what is deemed appopriate or inappropriate for a person in the public eye to release on social media. For Easterling, he cannot escape his title as a police officer and even on a personal webpage, his information, thoughts and ideas can be accessed by many individuals.
Mark Marshall, sheirff of Isle of Wight County, told USA Today that offensive posts can provide evidence for defense lawyers to impeach a police officer’s testimony in court.
The city denied a Freedom of Information Act request for police or incident reports related to Easterling’s Facebook post.
Social media usage has been a trending topic throughout the nation and something students should be aware of. The State News’ Rebecca Ryan met with Bill Morgan, experiential learning & on-campus internship coordinator for Career Services Network, this past March and talked about what students should be careful of when using social media, specifically Facebook.