TMI? Cracking down on police officers who ‘overshare’ online

Posted at 5:14 PM, Jul 04, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-05 00:57:44-04

SANDY -- The agency that certifies and disciplines police officers in Utah has a social media problem: officers who are oversharing information about their lives online.

"On a national level and a local level, there's been a number of officers that have posted inappropriate things on Facebook," said Major Spencer Turley of the Utah Department of Corrections. "Whether that's been case sensitive information or it's been a correctional officer in jail or a prison that's made a comment on an inmate suicide."

At its quarterly meeting in June, the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council adopted new training for rookies in the police academy on social media, and the dangers of posting too much.

"We'll take that extra hour in that ethics and professionalism class and talk about some of those issues that are plaguing almost all of law enforcement," Turley said.

Police acknowledge it is a growing problem, especially among younger officers who have grown up posting selfies, status updates and tweeting about many aspects of their daily lives.

But POST said there is a line that can be crossed.

"We're definitely seeing an increase in information that's put onto social media sites," Scott Stephenson, the director of Utah POST, told FOX 13. "That was the impetus for our policy."

POST has expressed concerns about sensitive information from a criminal investigation being shared. Stephenson said there is also a concern with officers sharing too many details about their private lives, raising a safety issue.

"We arrest people and they're not always happy about that," Stephenson said. "So we definitely need to be protective of our position."

Many individual departments already have policies that prohibit sensitive information from being released. The training on social media oversharing goes into effect immediately for corrections cadets. Similar training will also be offered to law enforcement cadets, POST said.