Of­fi­cers must deal with new world of so­cial me­dia

The Standard Journal - - POLICE - By MELODY DAREING Staff Writer

Po­lice of­fi­cials say so­cial me­dia is an ag­gra­va­tion.

“We’re con­stantly get­ting calls re­lat­ing to so­cial me­dia,” said Rock­mart Po­lice Chief Keith Sor­rells. “The majority of it is ha­rass­ment calls.”

Sor­rells said there aren’t a con­crete num­ber of in­ci­dents re­lated to Face­book posts, tweets, and texts. He said, many times, the of­fi­cer doesn’t know what stemmed an in­ci­dent un­til he or she starts ques­tion­ing those at the scene.

“A lot of them come in as a do­mes­tic or a fight. Once you get into it, and the rest of the nar­ra­tive, it started with Face­book or a text,” Sor­rells said.

Polk County Po­lice Chief Kenny Dodd said his depart­ment has seen a rise in in­ci­dents stem­ming from an on­line ar­gu­ment or com­ments made about oth­ers on­line. He can’t de­ter­mine when the trend started, but said it has been get­ting worse over the past cou­ple of years as more peo­ple go on­line.

“We get com­plaints all the time about state­ments made on Face­book or bul­ly­ing on Face­book,” Dodd said.

A look at the county po­lice re­ports shows the trend. There are, on av­er­age, two re­ports a week deal­ing with com­ments on so­cial me­dia.

Dodd said most of what his of­fi­cers deal with doesn’t es­ca­late to an as­sault or other se­ri­ous re­ac­tion, but sit­u­a­tions can get heated.

“Peo­ple can get on now and say any­thing with­out any re­course. Peo­ple take of­fense to it. That’s the world we live in,” Dodd said. Sor­rells agreed. “Whether things said are in­tended or not, there are folks who take things to heart,” he said.

Sor­rells said there are two main cul­prits of so­cial me­dia ha­rass­ment and ar­gu­ments.

“Face­book gen­er­ates calls for us, for sure. Tex­ting is another,” he said.

Sor­rells said many peo­ple will send threats by text rather than through pub­lic means. For po­lice, that’s bet­ter be­cause it can be di­rectly as­so­ci­ated with a per­son through a phone num­ber.

Dodd said find­ing out who is do­ing the bul­ly­ing is much harder on­line be­cause some state­ments are made anony­mously on threads, he said. Po­lice would have to get a court sub­poena to get the com­puter ad­dress from those post­ing and that cost is be­tween $75 to $125 a sub­poena.

“Then you can’t do any­thing with it. If it’s in a house where sev­eral peo­ple use the com­puter or on a pub­lic wifi at a cof­fee shop, you can’t prove who sent it. It’s an im­pos­si­ble crime to solve,” Dodd said.

Sor­rells, who said he has never par­tic­i­pated in so­cial me­dia and never in­tends to, said peo­ple should do what they can to pro­tect them­selves on­line.

“My un­der­stand­ing is you can block peo­ple. That’s what I would do,” he said.

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