LAPD Cops: To Tweet or Not To Tweet

Last week we told you about how police departments across the world were struggling to deal with their social media policy. Well, we have another example of that here in LA. Although this one is a bit different. Instead of trying to deal with the policing of rowdy protesters’ online activites, the LAPD is trying to figure out acceptable social media practices for their own officers.

Late last week, LAPD Homicide Detective Sal LaBarbera tweeted a shot of dead body at a crime scene in South LA, with the caption “Guess where I’m at??? It never ends.” Many in the community, notably LA Taco, were not pleased, and felt the detective was being callous. But LaBarbera defended his social media activity to the LA Weekly. “I see them all over the country. The TV show ‘The First 48‘ puts out more stuff than we do.” LaBarbera maintains he was just trying to show the effects of gang violence and to keep the issue in the public eye.

Although intent does matter in situations like this, the real issue seems to be whether or not police officers should be allowed to publish media culled from their various on-the-job activities. LAPD does not appear to have a policy.  As a journalist, its seems to me the more info we have on the mindsets of our police officers, the better. We believe LaBarbera when he tells the LA Weekly he’s one of the good guys. But others out there might not be so good. This Fishie, for one, would rather have those folks tweeting away. All the better to have a public record should a serious incident arise.

LaBarbera has taken some heat for his tweet. That’s what happens when you put your ideas in the public sphere. But we would hate for him to lose his right to publicly speak his mind.