Police online

Social media is changing law enforcement

Christopher Schneider will be at the U of W to talk about how social media has changed policing.

Brandon University sociology professor Dr. Christopher Schneider will be at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) on Oct. 26 to discuss his book Policing and Social Media: Social Control in an Era of New Media.

“Essentially, what I’m doing in the book is looking at the ways social media changes police work,” Schneider says.

He says it’s important for people to know about what police are doing because, the public is their clientele and should be aware of how they’re serving us.

In his book, Schneider says he traced public knowledge of police use of social media back to MySpace.

“A lot of teenagers were sort of congregating on MySpace and opening up profiles, and that created what we call sort of a moral panic around online predators,” Schneider says. “The suggestion was that predators were going to MySpace to groom young people to engage in illegal underage sex acts.”

Besides using social media to find crimes being committed, the police also use it to help shape their image.

“Police will use Twitter as a basic kind of presentational strategy to present the institution of policing as good and favourable to the public,” Schneider says.

In fact, he says most major police departments around the world are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.

“Some police departments have just got on social media and started using social media without any kind of policy or rules or laws to direct them how to use these technologies or even any sort of best practices that informs police about what they should be doing and saying,” Schneider says.

For example, he says the Vancouver Police Department didn’t come out with a social media policy until more than a year after starting a Twitter account.

“That’s interesting for an organization like police that’s so heavily bureaucratic and rule-governed that you have police now acting as police in a space where there are now minimal rules,” Schneider says.

Schneider is being brought to the U of W by its department of criminal justice.

“I think students will be particularly interested in this, because students are really the expert users of social media and these kinds of new technologies. They know way more about it than people the generation before, such as myself, do,” organizer and U of W criminal justice professor Dr. Kevin Walby says.

Despite this knowledge about using social media, Walby suggests many people aren’t fully aware of how police use the technology.

This presentation is part of the Criminal Justice and Criminology Talks series and is open to the public.

Dr. Christopher Schneider will be at the University of Winnipeg on Oct. 26 for Policing and Social Media: Social Control in an Era of New Media. The event will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in room 2M70.

Published in Volume 71, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 20, 2016)

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