Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 10:52 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments
  • Print

Police warn against tweeting during shootings, manhunts

Washington police agencies have joined to ask the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts.


The Associated Press

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
"It's a real safety issue, not only for officers but anyone in the vicinity," Korb said. Is she joking? Heck yes it's a... MORE
OK, I literally laughed out loud when I read this. Don't think of pink elephants! This is really total malarkey. There... MORE
Total B.S. The safer thing to do is to photograph, record and tweet as much as possible. The greater good is served... MORE

advertising

Police in Washington state are asking the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts to avoid accidentally telling the bad guys what officers are doing.

The “TweetSmart” campaign began in late July by a coalition of nine agencies, including Seattle police and the State Patrol, and aims to raise awareness about social media’s potential impact on law enforcement.

Some have called the effort a step that could lead to censorship; others dismissed it as silly. Police say it’s just a reminder at a time when cellphones and social networks hasten the lightning-quick spread of information.

A social-media expert at the International Association of Chiefs of Police said she’s unaware of similar awareness campaigns elsewhere but the problem is growing.

“All members of the public may not understand the implications of tweeting out a picture of SWAT team activity,” said Nancy Korb, who oversees the Alexandria, Va., organization’s Center for Social Media.

“It’s a real safety issue, not only for officers but anyone in the vicinity,” Korb said.

Korb said she is not aware of any social-media post that has led to the injury of a police officer, but she said there have been a few close calls. Other times, tweets have interfered with investigations.

In those cases, police tweet asking people to back off.

Korb said citizen journalists generally respond well when the reasons are explained. “It’s not that they don’t want the public to share information,” she said. “It’s the timing of it.”

Social-media speculation and reports challenged Boston police during the search for the marathon bombers.

Two recent incidents led Washington’s State Patrol to organize the “Tweet­Smart” campaign: the search for a gunman in Canada after three officers were killed and a shooting at a high school near Portland.

“I saw it personally as far back as Lakewood,” said State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins, referring to social-media traffic during the manhunt for a man wanted for killing four Lakewood police officers in Parkland, Pierce County, in 2009.

At the time, people speculated online about why police were combing a Seattle park while a search was on for the man, Calkins said.

Calkins said police can do their own preventive maintenance with social media by getting information out there when crime is happening.

“We have to respond with a smartphone almost as fast as we respond with a gun,” said Calkins, who along with Korb commended Seattle police on use of social media.

Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb said they use social media to engage the public and believe that getting public-safety information out quickly will help minimize rumors and speculation.

“We recognize there’s a responsibility to use every tool at our disposal to keep the public safe,” Whitcomb said.

Seattle photographer Michael Holden said he saw a direct path between asking people not to share crime photos and eventually forbidding them to take them.

Holden said citizens have good reasons to take pictures of police, and he does not worry about criminals using social media to find out what law enforcement is doing.

“I think the criminals are probably having more pressing concerns than checking Twitter,” he said.



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Local News

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Get ready for 2015

Get ready for 2015

The Seattle Times 12-month wall calendar features hand-picked photos of life in the Pacific Northwest. Order while supplies last!

Advertising

Partner Video

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►