BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Getting on social media has become a daily and reoccurring activity for most people. Law enforcement agencies also use the applications, specifically Facebook and Twitter.
The internet allows officers and deputies to interact with the people they’re responsible for protecting but can also bring some negative attention their way.
The Panama City Beach Police Department has fully embraced the social media craze according to Lieutenant J.R. Talamantez.
“Whether they may be immediate matters such as a missing person, a traffic accident, some traffic delays. It also allows us to share information directly to community members so there’s no confusion in the information they’re getting because it’s directly from us,” Talamantez said.
Over in Lynn Haven, Police Chief Ricky Ramie says they also utilize social media.
“I’ve seen we’ve used it in a short time frame to solve the crime because we’re able to post pictures or a video of the suspect and it’s also a great way for the community to communicate with us,” Ramie said.
Both say, the days leading up to and after Hurricane Michael, social media was vital to safety.
“It was very effective during the storm to get information out to get people evacuated,” Ramie said.
Talamantez says they were able to make over 100 rescues after the storm.
“We were able to establish at least a limited internet connection here at the police department and that’s how people were communicating with us. ‘Can you check on my mom? Can you check on my brother? Can you check on my sister?’ and they were sending us addresses through our social media pages,” Talamantez said.
Social media also gives law enforcement a way to work behind the scenes.
“We take pride in our ability to monitor criminal behavior online and we utilize that in several different methods. We do have undercover police officers online actively seeking out individuals, specifically trying to hurt our children,” Talamantez said.
Allowing them to keep a close eye on dangerous people.
“There are so many backdoor social media outlets that basically solicit children and that also we have to be on the forefront of,” Ramie said.
While they do help, one wrong post can cause a whirlwind of effects.
“It could be somewhere in the nation that a cop made a bad decision and we carry that burden and often one of the things when you take an oath and wear this badge that you have to understand that one bad movement by you can infect the whole nation of law enforcement,” Ramie said.
Overall, Talamantez says being able to instantly connect with the public helps create better relationships between the force and citizens.