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Social media mixed bag for law enforcement

Law enforcement officials like Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski sees the positives and negatives of a more connected public through social media. On the plus side, residents and visitors have been more apt to share suspicious behavior with law enforcement through social media channels. However, civility and accountability for what people say have gone down with it. Joski says that is because the human element of communication goes away online.

Joski recommends people keep kindness and compassion in their thoughts whether they say them online or in person. You can read more about Sheriff Matt Joski’s thoughts on social media and crime below.

 

FROM SHERIFF MATT JOSKI

This week’s article is on a topic that I would not have thought about writing just a few years ago. It is in regards to our response to calls in which social media has played a key role in either the basis for the call, or in some cases, our ability to investigate and successfully charge individuals who have committed offenses against persons or property.

          As an eternal optimist, I always like to start with the positive. We have seen a significant increase in the ability and willingness of people to provide information to law enforcement when we engage the various forms of social media. While some of this information is received well into an investigation, based on the observations someone may have had days or even weeks ago, some of this information is actually coming to us in real time, allowing us to quickly and effectively follow up. The use of new technology is not a replacement of the close relationship that local law enforcement has with its community, but rather just another way in which that relationship can be brought to bear to keep our communities safe.

           Social Media has also provided Law Enforcement with an effective means by which to communicate. There is no doubt that the work we do in Law Enforcement while intriguing, is also greatly misunderstood. Much of this misunderstanding is due to the portrayals we see in our popular culture or as a result of the events which unfold in other communities across our nation. It is imperative that we take every opportunity to communicate not only in response to a major incident, but each and every day to help foster a greater awareness of the work which is done by the men and women of law enforcement. There are so many amazing actions and deeds that too often are not recognized, and social media is just another way to share those moments.

            So now to the challenges. Social Media in and of itself has not necessarily created any new crimes, but what it has created is an environment where individuals interact much differently than if they were to be face to face. It may be because social media provides what feels like a sense of anonymity, or at a minimal a reduced sense of accountability for what is said or this case written and then posted. We have seen recent cases where communications have gone on that most likely would not have transpired had the two individuals been standing face to face to face. While there has always been verbal aggression, the use of social media has taken it to a new level. While there has always been bullying, the use of social media has not only escalated the bullying behavior, but even more damaging, it perpetuates the behavior beyond what was traditionally limited to physical presence. Now that bullying follows the victim in both space and time preventing the victim any type of escape or sanctuary.

             The next logical question is; what can we do as parents, friends, family members or even just community members at large? Like any effective solution it has to start with us as individuals. Our relationships with each other are some of most valuable resources we have. Before sending that text, twitter, or post, think about what you are saying and how it may be received. The unique characteristic of social media is that it is done without the most important component of communication which is that it lacks non- verbal cues. It also lacks immediate feedback. These are vital to gauge how our communications are being received or if there may be a possible misinterpretation of what we are trying to convey. The real threat in all of this digital communication is that it is removing the human element from communication. We can never forget that we all have the potential to communicate in such a way that can either be supportive and encouraging or destructive and damaging. The presence of a digital media in which to communicate does not remove our obligation to each other, nor provide an alibi for devaluating another person’s perspective or life experiences. So the next time you are about to hit the send or post button, take another look at your message. Ask yourself “Would that message be different if you were standing face to face with the person?” No matter where our technology takes us in the future, kindness and compassion should remain a part of that journey.

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