Presenting Copies Of LAPD Social Media Policies And Guidelines — Including Comprehensive Handbook Promulgated In 2015 By Charlie Beck — Explaining How To Use Social Media In Investigations — Fictitious Online Personas On Social Media — Community Relations — And So On — Also Info From LAPD Labor Relations Unit — On How Cops Comport Themselves At Labor Actions — Like They Evidently Videotape Them And Use A Decibel Meter To Prove Code Violations — But They Also Deny Videotaping Labor Actions — And More!

I’ve been looking into official City of LA uses of social media. In particular I have some interesting results on Twitter use, especially blocking behavior, by Council offices and the City Attorney and by Police Commission boss Steve Soboroff. I’m also trying to understand the City’s policies regarding social media, and I recently obtained a number of really interesting records about this from the LAPD. They are all available here on Archive.Org and there are links to the individual files below:

2012 Notice from Charlie Beck regarding LAPD use of social media — This is a very primitive first attempt at an LAPD social media policy. Beck says that they’re working on a comprehensive policy, but meanwhile he reminds everyone that “Department employees who choose to use social media sites for personal use or Department-related activities are reminded to adhere to Department policies and procedures, including but not limited to [policies on ] Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, Endorsement of Products and Services, Confidential Nature of Department Records, Reports, and Information, … and the Department’s Law Enforcement Code of Ethics.”

2015 LAPD Social Media User Guide — This is a really important item. It’s the LAPD’s comprehensive guide to social media use for official, personal, and investigative purposes. There’s a transcription of some parts of this fascinating item after the break, mostly the part on how LAPD uses fictitious online personas during investigations. This is a particularly timely issue right now as such profiles often violate terms of service, e.g. Facebook’s, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken up the matter.

It also has a lot of bizarro-world examples of how cops can use social media to improve the world, e.g. “After an officer-involved shooting, the watch commander used social media to identify and dispel rumors. He/She clarified the facts by disseminating information from the press release, resulting in an increase of public support for the police department.”

2018 Chief of Detectives notice on preservation of social media accounts for investigative purposes — Exactly what it sounds like. Instructions on how to ask the service providers to preserve accounts that are evidence and, obviously, a warning that “Officers shall not login to any personal accounts to view content related to any investigation. This may inadvertently connect personal accounts to those of suspects, victims, or witnesses, or otherwise compromise sensitive investigations.”

2018 Guidance from Michel Moore on Official and Personal Social Media Accounts — Another really important item here. In particular Moore orders officers who want to create official accounts, even those personal official accounts, to get permission from the public information division (PID) first. Captains and above aren’t required to ask permission but they are required to inform the PID when they create an account and provide information about it.

Moore also gives some really thoughtful advice that, I believe, is widely ignored by his subordinates: “Employees using an official Department social media account generally should not block or mute users or followers unless failure to do so impacts public or officer safety. Absent exigent circumstances, personnel shall first consult with the PID for direction prior to blocking or muting a user participating in an official Department social media account.” There’s much more here than my summary can do justice to and you really ought to read the whole thing. There’s also a transcription of this after the break.

LAPD Labor Relations Unit discussion of social media and photography policies — I didn’t even realize that the LAPD had a Labor Relations Unit until the responsive records came in. This is a hugely document in that the LRU evidently didn’t have any actual records to hand over but they responded to the various elements of my request in writing. Agencies certainly aren’t required to do this but it’s really nice when they do.

In particular they reveal that they do actively monitor social media accounts and websites of unions, which I find a little creepy, but I suppose that as long as they stick to monitoring rather than participating and also only look at public stuff there’s not much to be done about it. It’s internally contradictory, which invites detailed further study. E.g. they both admit to videotaping labor actions and at the same time deny that they do. Turn the page for transcribed selections from this and other records discussed above.

Transcribed selections from LAPD Labor Relations Unit discussion of social media and photography policies:

Police should make reasonable efforts to uphold the right to picket peacefully. Mass picketing or circular picketing is not itself a violation of law; however, if illegal acts result from such picketing, corrective police action should be taken. When mass picketing is conducted in a congested area or where pedestrians are deprived of the normal use of sidewalks, the public inconvenience should be brought to the attention of the union official. Although the Department has no legal authority to establish a strike perimeter or limit the number of pickets, a tactful suggestion to use a particular portion of the sidewalk or other property is usually accepted.

Critical situations can arise in labor-management disputes that have a potential to erupt on a major scale, requiring redeployment of Department personnel in order to re-establish control. Supervisors should implement a log recording all pertinent information during the labor dispute. Consideration should be given to deploying Department video equipment, decibel meters, etc., to aid in the determination, documentation, enforcement and prosecution of applicable violations, especially with organized labor groups with a history of unlawful behavior. The LAPD/LRU personnel does not keep or maintain a list or files of unions that have a history of unlawful behavior.

Labor Relations personnel utilize Department computers to monitor public web sites and social media sites maintained by many of the labor unions that operate within the City of Los Angeles. These searches and web site visits are utilized to identify upcoming labor events, such as pickets, job actions, media campaigns, and the status of contract negotiations and may reference them in briefing Department Command Staff and Incident Commanders.

In attempt to remain neutral to all parties involved in labor disputes, the Labor Relations Unit has a best practices policy/procedure of not photographing labor union members, to include taking selfies with picket Captains, labor Organizers, labor Agents, and/or business members. This practice was established to maintain the trust of the labor unions and their members, by maintaining the anonymity of all members that are engaged in Federally protected activities and reduce the possibility of retaliation within the workplace. Labor Relations Unit personnel have to maintain a position and perception of neutrality and impartiality when actively engaged in the performance of their duties.

In attempt to remain neutral to all parties involved in labor disputes, the Labor Relations Unit has a best practices policy/procedure of not photographing labor union members, to include taking selfies with picket Captains, labor Organizers, labor Agents, and/or business members. This practice was established to maintain the trust of the labor unions and their members, by maintaining the anonymity of all members that are engaged in Federally protected activities and reduce the possibility of retaliation within the workplace. Labor Relations Unit personnel have to maintain a position and perception of neutrality and impartiality when actively engaged in the performance of their duties.

Transcribed selections from 2018 Guidance from Michel Moore on Official and Personal Social Media Accounts:

Social media is a powerful tool through which the LAPD can disseminate important information to the community, listen to voices and perceptions of the Department, connect directly with our community members online, and build public trust. Social networks and other online media are excellent tools for engagement and two-way communication, but inappropriate use may undermine the public’s faith and trust in the Department and its mission.

Blocking Employees using an official Department social media account generally should not block or mute users or followers unless failure to do so impacts public or officer safety. Absent exigent circumstances, personnel shall first consult with the PID for direction prior to blocking or muting a user participating in an official Department social media account.

Employees should also report violations of the terms and conditions of any social media platform by a user or follower to the appropriate social media platform.

Posting of Content — Official Department Positions. Statements on issues of public importance posted to official Department social media accounts are official representations of the Los Angeles Police Department. Therefore, personnel shall only post statements or other content which is consistent with official Department positions or otherwise authorized by appropriate Department authorities.

Posting of Content — Political Positions, Endorsements, or the Promotion of Commercial Products. Personnel are prohibited from political activity or endorsing commercial products or services in violation of City ethics prohibitions, Department policies and the standards of conduct applicable to Department employees.

PERSONAL SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS

Los Angeles Police Department personnel are permitted to use social media platforms as private individuals consistent with Department policies and the standards of conduct for off-duty behavior.

Personnel may use publicly-available LAPD insignia (including badges, logos, and seal), photographs, and video content that do not violate Department policies by their public release, and information identifying the user as an LAPD employee, on personal social media acocunts.1 Personnel, however, are cautioned that identifying oneself as a Department employee or using LAPD insignia or graphics may: (1) suggest that the views expressed on the platform are positions endorsed by the Department; and/or, (2) create the appearance that the account holder is acting in an official capacity.

Accordingly, Department personnel should be mindful that a personal social media account that contains LAPD-related graphics, photographs or identifying information may create a nexus to the Department and subject the employee to the policies and restrictions applicable to on-duty contact and conducting official Department business.

Transcribed selections from the 2015 LAPD Social Media User Guide:


Investigations
Social media, like any other lawful investigative method, may be used to collect evidence for a criminal case. In this capacity, social media use can be covert and/or clandestine and target a specific suspect or crime. When social media evidence deemed material to an investigation is collected, it should be:

• Printed out on paper (if feasible) and stored in the investigation case package; and,
• Preserved digitally in a format that can be shared during discovery.

Online Undercover Activity is defined as the use of a Fictitious Online Persona to engage in ongoing interactive communication over the Internet with an identified person or group and is related to an ongoing investigation.9 Fictitious Online Personas created for examining trends, tactics, developing profiles, or conducting research do not constitute Online Undercover Activity. Unique requirements of specialized units using social media in either a covert or clandestine capacity may result in deviations from this Guide, subject to approval from the unit’s commanding officer.

Investigator Responsibilities: Investigators using a Fictitious Online Persona or conducting Online Undercover Activity must follow the below guidelines. Any deviations must be approved in writing by their Commanding Officer.

a) Obtain approval from his/her commanding officer prior to using a Fictitious Online Persona during an investigation or conducting Online Undercover Activity. If prior approval was not obtained, the employee should notify his/her supervisor as soon as practicable. Approval may be granted telephonically, and the supervisor must initial the approval document (i.e., Follow-Up Investigation, Form 03.14.00, or the Chronological Record, Form 03.11.06) as soon as practicable;

b) Document the approval, which should be maintained by the investigator;

c) Supervisors approving Online Undercover Activity must notify the commanding officer of the respective investigative unit and document it on the investigator’s Follow-Up Investigation, or the Chronological Record;

d) Ensure that communications obtained during the use of the Fictitious Online Persona or during the Online Undercover Activity that are material to the investigation are documented on a Follow-Up Investigation, or the Chronological Record;

e) Evaluate information obtained through social media resources for source reliability and content validity; and,

f) Employees must comply with the LA CLEAR memorandum of understanding regarding deconfliction procedures when establishing and maintaining Fictitious Online Personas.

Investigative Examples: The following are examples of the use of social media for
investigative purposes:

• Criminal Investigations. An investigator accessed a missing juvenile’s social media account and used it to locate her. The juvenile had posted her location and condition, allowing peers to communicate, but keeping her parents unaware. Social media is now an integral part of missing juvenile investigations.

• Online Stings. Burglary detectives identified goods consistent with frequently stolen items. Detectives negotiated with the suspect to “buy” the items.

Community Relations/Engagement

Social media is also an extension of the Department’s Community-Based Policing principles,
guided by the Department’s Media Relations Handbook.

Community Relations Officers should incorporate social media as part of their regular duties.
Senior Lead Officers should develop and maintain appropriate social media platforms including:

• Using Skype or Facebook for virtual neighborhood meetings.
• Using Facebook for a specific crime issue or area safety hazard.
• Developing a blog to keep in contact with community members.
• Starting a youth page to encourage constructive activities.
• Using Yelp to reach out to citizens who have checked in at a police station.

Community Relations/Engagement Examples: The following are examples for using social
media for community relations:

• Officer-Involved Shooting: After an officer-involved shooting, the watch commander used social media to identify and dispel rumors. He/She clarified the facts by disseminating information from the press release, resulting in an increase of public support for the police department.

• Community Service/Freeway Closure: The Department proactively disseminated information to assist drivers and citizens with a weekend closure of a major freeway. Continually updated posts reflected construction status and predicted an earlier than expected opening of the public road.


Image of Michel Moore and Steve Soboroff, the alliteratively appellationated head bosses in charge of the LAPD, is, as usual, ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.

  1. The Los Angeles Police Department, however, maintains its rights and exclusive use of its registered trademarks.
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