The union representing officers with the San Francisco Police Department and top department brass have come to an agreement on just how, exactly, its members should and should not be using social media. KQED News reports that the new policy comes after a scandal involving the alleged sexual exploitation and trafficking of a minor rocked both the SFPD and the Oakland Police Department.
At heart was Celeste Guap, an East Bay resident who says that as a minor she had sex with numerous police officers — including at least one SFPD officer. In addition, it turned out that dozens more members of the SFPD were connected to Guap via Facebook and were either conversing or flirting with her thre and a federal officer reportedly reached out to her via Instagram in an attempt to pimp her.
"We’ve seen the situation in Oakland, we saw the situation in our own department through some of the hideous text messages that were being sent back and forth,” Gary Delagnes, the former president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, told KQED News. Delagnes helped to negotiate the new policy. "Everybody was kind of on the same page on this one. You can’t give the appearance to the public that this is the way we act or the way we think.”
A chunk of the new policy, highlighted by the publication, seems to be an attempt to head off any future questionable online interactions.
Members are prohibited from any use of personal social media to contact or communicate (e.g., “friending”, “following”, messaging, etc.) with witnesses, crime victims, or any person under the age of 18 who members interact with through the course of their official duties with the Department. Such contacts or communications on social media could impair the member’s capacity to perform his or her duties or jeopardize an ongoing investigation or criminal case. All such contacts and communications shall be done through Department authorized methods and channels (e.g., Department email, etc.). These restrictions do not apply to communications with relatives of Department members that members have a relationship with outside the Department.
While it is certainly good to have this in writing, one has to wonder what difference it will make. Isn't it common sense that a police officer shouldn't be Facebook friends with a trafficked and abused minor, as Guap was? (Though it's very possible none of them knew her age or occupation, and that she reached out and befriended them.) If a police officer makes the decision to do coke and have sex with an underage girl, as the Examiner reports SFPD Officer Rodger Ponce De Leon is alleged to have done, then is a social media policy really going to get in his way?
The Police Commission is set to vote on the new guidelines on September 7. In the meantime, Guap's grandmother has said the officers involved with her daughter should be put in jail, where, of course, their opportunities to hit on underage victims of crime via Facebook would be greatly reduced.