Facebook used for Crisis Intervention: New Media, New Potentials

This week, Florida police officers used Facebook as a tool for crisis intervention, preventing what could have been a deadly situation.

As I’ve said before, Facebook is a new medium, and we’re still culturally negotiating the uses of it. Social media— what began as “something for the kids”— has evolved into a network most people use everyday, and we’re still discovering new social possibilities for this platform.

This week, Florida police officers used Facebook as a tool for crisis intervention, preventing what could have been a deadly situation.

According to blogger Keli Sipperley, “A 47-year-old man had barricaded himself in a shed outside his home after arguing with his family.” The police report said that the man claimed he was going to do something terrible, and stated that he had access to a gun.

As CBS reports, the Sherrif’s office didn’t know how to get to the man, but they knew he had access to the internet, so they found him on Facebook. They read his profile to learn more about him and quickly sent him a Facebook friend request.

Almost instantly, the man responded to friend request, and the officers were able to communicate with him through Facebook’s chat feature/ Here’s a part of the exchange:

The man: I can’t be helped this time it will only lead to next time. I’m damaged goods.

Pasco Sherif’s Office: I don’t’ believe that. I have many friends that have received help and made it through very rough times … put me to the test … tell me how I can help you….

The man: “Pull the trigger so I don’t have to”

Pasco Sherif’s Office: “We don’t want to do that ever, that’s not how we want to remember you. I am here to help. Do you have a gun. Where are you? And us having to shoot someone does hurt us … every time …”

The man: face it this one has to go.

Pasco Sherif’s Office: no it doesn’t. thats why i’m here. I really want to help. Is there something I can do? Can you tell me what happened and how this all started?

The man: wana help call the fire dept and get back lots of gases around too late sorry this time.

Pasco Sherif’s Office:: thats not good. Will you talk to me on the phone?

The Man: black smoke in here

Pasco Sherif’s Office:: what is black smoke? Are you there? What is black smoke? Are you there? Are you there? Are you there? Are you there? Hello?

After this back-and-forth, the man burned down the shed, but emerged before his life was threatened.

“This is the first time we have used Facebook in a crisis situation,” Corporal Art Morrison said. “We’ve never used Facebook to negotiate. We’ve never texted or sent anything through the internet, so for us this is a first time ever.”

The man was taken into custody for a mental evaluation.

@Amanda Cosco is a freelance writer, content queen & social media girl genius. To learn more about her, visit her professional blog here.