Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas says no specific negative incident led him to implement the policy, but a series of social media incidents across the country and in his department have happened.
"No one particular instance, but it's pretty standard throughout the country there are issues that pop up from time to time," he said. "Photographs from crime scenes or videos taken on personal phones get posted. Those have value as evidence and aren't appropriate to post."
Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and others have all become part of the world's cyber landscape. But seeing those crime scene videos and photos online is leading the Little Rock Police Department to limit officers' posting options.
"They [those materials] effectively belong as work product of officers involved and belong to the department," Thomas said. "Some information is not appropriate to release to the public, especially if they're involved in ongoing investigations."
According to Chief Thomas, the prevalence of personal iPhones and other mobile camera devices has led to an increase in the instances, nationwide, of photos of police work getting posted online.
The new policy restricts officers from posting official documents, images, etc. It also says posts should not contain logos, emblems, or images of specific agency uniforms that could identify the department online.
Police computers and cell phones are also off-limits for logging in, unless authorized by department administration. And employees aren't allowed to use personal devices to capture images like crime scenes.
Now, obviously, we here at KARK are posting to Facebook all the time while on the clock. But department heads say that's the type of thing they're trying to limit for officers on-duty, unless it's part of an officer's actual job.
"The department has one point of contact and one public presentation," Thomas said. "And that chain of command needs to be respected."
Browsing through Facebook, we came across at least six personal profiles specifically identifying Little Rock PD as place of employment, and some officers' pages we knew to exist, complete with pictures in uniform, now are no longer published.
"You really kind of solidify what your stance is and give employees an explanation of what their conduct should be," Thomas said of the policy.
The other profiles we found listing a Central Arkansas law enforcement agency as a place of employment as frequently as Little Rock was North Little Rock Police Department (NLRPD).
NLRPD does also have a social media policy in place. While the Pulaski County Sheriff's office does not have a specific social media policy in place, 21 standards of conduct and electronic messaging policies are used to cover Internet interactions and online postings.
To read the full policy being implemented by Little Rock Police Department, download the attachment below.