Law Enforcement and the Social Media

Based on Activities 4, 5 and 6, draft 4 to 6 Research Questions for your study. Use the NCU Topic Paper Template and NCU Concept Paper Template found in the Dissertation Center as the model for your Research Questions. In this group of questions, you must have at least 2 that are qualitative in nature and at least 2 that are qualitative in nature. For each question, briefly discuss the appropriate approach (qualitative or quantitative) and speculate on the specific approaches that may be used. Length: 4 pages (app. 350 words per page). Include 4 references. Your essay should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts that are presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards. Here is the Topics: #4 roblem Statement: Social media and law enforcement Overview Social media is a fact of everyday modern life. For law enforcement personnel, it has created new opportunities to share resources with the public, including as ‘tweeting’ information about a possible suspect or releasing safety information to the public about terrorist incidents or natural disasters. At first, in the Internetage, police departments were reluctant to change. “Especially when it comes to computers and technology, because most officers want to be out chasing the bad guys and don’t want to be behind the computer looking at things,” but now most law enforcement agencies have come to embrace the new technology and learned to use it to their advantage (Conan 2013). On the other hand, the explosion of unregulated social media has also created the opportunity for new crimes, including bullying and identity theft. This research proposal will compare and assess the different ways that online ‘sharing’ has both made law enforcement agencies more engaged and responsive but also complicated their mission. Social media as a law enforcement tool: The Boston bombings and other recent events One of the most frightening incidents of mass violence to have gripped the nation in recent months was that of the Boston Marathon bombings. When law enforcement agencies were attempting to locate and apprehend suspects, “police and other law enforcement agencies also used tweets to correct misinformation that spread on Twitter and other media. Once suspects had been identified, their Twitter and Facebook accounts became part of the investigation, even an Amazon wish list” (Conan 2013). The existence of social media like Twitter and Facebook have made people more proactive about taking photographs, which adds to the availability of evidence even in the hectic aftermath of an event. Law enforcement can ‘tweet’ or ‘share’ photographs submitted by bystanders or taken by surveillance cameras nearly instantly, versus using television or print sources. The image of a dangerous suspect, a missing person, or any other individual who is being sought after by law enforcement can be immediately disseminated and thus recruit the public as part of its search efforts. On a very practical level, this enables agencies to gain valuable information for its search efforts and makes it more difficult for individuals to hide; on another level it creates a positive connection between law enforcement and the public. Rather than ‘the enemy’ or an entity wielding power, the agency is shown as responsive and appreciative to the public’s concerns. When the public is regularly informed of law enforcement agencies’ efforts, it is less likely to be angry at delays in apprehending suspects. Also, with legitimate channels of information disseminating coverage on a moment-by-moment basis, there is less of a chance that rumor, innuendo, and non-legitimate channels will put forth inaccurate ideas. In Boston, “the department’s tweet clarifying that there was no arrest shortly after the bombings saw more than 11,000 retweets. A polite scolding to those tweeting information from police scanners was retweeted more than 20,000 times, higher than any other tweet at that time and indication that the public accepts the fact that they too need to show some restraint” (Bar-Tur 2013). The ‘retweeting’ of this request shows a level of respect and confidence of the public in the Boston police department, versus previous public-police relationships. In terms of researching crime, social media also leaves a valuable ‘paper trail’ with evidence for law enforcement agencies. Most rapists know their victims, for example, but in the pre-online era, it was often very difficult to draw a connection between perpetrator and victim. According to the Cincinnati Police Department: “One big thing is we’ve had rape cases and burglaries where people were meeting each other via Facebook and became familiar with each other just through chats on the Internet. And when they would meet up with these individuals, the victim would then be either unfortunately a victim of a rape or robbery, and we were able to backtrack it through that” (Conan 2013). Because the social media coverage is in ‘real time,’ the exact nature of the relationship can be more objectively determined, without the potentially clouding effects of hindsight or memory lapses. Social media can be helpful for law enforcement for less dramatic scenarios as well. For example, even a local agency can use the Internet to communicate up-to-date information about “blizzard, floods, hurricanes, et cetera…what roads are closed, if there’s accidents, what areas of town are out of power, et cetera” (Conan 2013). In the case of an ever-changing natural event such as a forest fire, social media updates can help the community determine where a high risk area is; what precautions to take, and where to relocate in the event of an emergency. This has the valuable effect of reducing panic and also reducing the chances of an unfortunate incident occurring—members of the public are less likely to get stuck in a snowstorm if the police are tweeting to stay inside and that conditions are impassable, or to put themselves at risk if someone dangerous is at large, as was the case in Boston. This is another instance of how friendly and pertinent updates about natural disasters and community events forge a positive relationship between the law enforcement agency and the public. Instead of viewing the police as punitive or punishing figures with whom they have contact only when committing a minor traffic violation, the police are more apt to be seen as ‘friends’ in the literal as well as the Facebook sense. However, social media, for all of the potential positives it offers law enforcement, has also created opportunities for new crimes and made existing crimes easier to commit. Although Facebook and Twitter may make it easier to track and trace a relationship on one hand, it can also facilitate the ability of strangers to connect with one another under misleading premises, or predators to lure underage teens with whom they might not otherwise have contact. Identity theft is also much easier. “Information obtained from public records (e.g., birth, death, and real estate) has been available online for years. By increasing exposure of personal information, social media has raised the threat level. This new entity has a unique nature that makes it powerful and unpredictable. Several characteristics combine to make it especially threatening to law enforcement” (Waters 2012). The nature of social media encourages ‘sharing’ and interactions depend upon displaying personal information. Seemingly innocent data such as ‘checking in’ a particular location can be a tipoff for a criminal contemplating a burglary of an unattended house or a stalker seeking to find a victim. Mobile phone numbers can be available through Facebook and can be used to elicit data. It is very easy to conceal information about one’s true identity and create a false public profile to obtain data. The instantaneous nature of social media also makes it very easy to put forth information and very difficult to delete it, even more so than email. Information that is unthinkingly ‘shared’ can come back to haunt the poster very easily. The police have a role in educating the public about protecting itself against identity theft and other new and old crimes made easier by the Internet. The online environment also facilitates bullying, both amongst teens and even adults in collective environments such as offices. “Pooling of like minds often occurs online. This bolsters confidence and gives the impression of support for socially unacceptable conduct. Copycat behavior can make the first well-publicized transgression the impetus for many more. Social media can engender a mob mentality wherein one small stimulus spurs a wide-scale reaction that feeds on itself and grows out of control. Incidents develop faster, reach farther, and spread more rapidly than anything society has dealt with before” (Waters 2012). Because of the distance and screen of anonymity offered by the online environment, rumors and harassment can ‘feel’ less negative to the perpetrator, even if they have severe emotional consequences for the victim. When the harassment begins to affect the individual’s ability to obtain an education or to do his or her work effectively, it becomes a legal matter. Finally, for better or for worse, social media has also placed law enforcement personnel under greater scrutiny in terms of their actions. “This public profession, officers’ duties occur in a societal arena allotting them noprivacy. Social media significantly has increased officers’ community exposure. The problem that prompted this study is multifaceted. Police often are surrounded by cameras and amateur reporters who broadcast every action and their opinion of it to a worldwide audience. Law enforcement officer’s reputation and well-being can be affected by the comments, videos, and pictures that individuals post in social media sites about them. The officers are being affected by individuals who chose to use social media to damage the officer’s reputation and share their personal information with others. Secondly often officer’s personal lives and personal opinions become publicly scrutinized when the officers or members of his/her family post things on social media sites. Many times the nature of the problem comes from law enforcement officers who make mistakes when on duty or simply reveal to much about their own personal lives while on social media. Due to its public nature, policing is an easy topic for network discussion” (Waters 2012). There is far greater officer accountability to the public than ever before, given that officers must be mindful of the fact that they can always be ‘watched’ via social media and photographs, audio, and bystander data can be quickly and easily disseminated. It is essential that law enforcement personnel remain savvy about the potential ways in which they can use social media for their benefit as well as the risks it poses. “Ongoing training on current issues, the hazards of social media, and self-protection is essential. Due to the web’s rapidly changing environment, one-time training is not sufficient. Individuals alone cannot keep up with social networking’s constant evolution. A dedicated manager must ensure personnel are updated through e-mails, memorandum, briefings, and trainings” (Waters 2012). Just like the law itself, the relationship of law enforcement agencies to social media remains a work in progress, one which will continue to be negotiated in the future. #5 Purpose Statement This study will examine how the social media is affecting the lives of those who are currently in law enforcement in the U.S. The focus of this study is on how the use of social media can be both a useful tool and/or a negative impact on officers and their respective organizations. Socially, civilly and even criminally the social media can be used for or against law enforcement organizations and their employees. More importantly the study will focus on effective policies and controls that must be implemented by law enforcement organizations to secure both themselves and their employees from criminal and civil liabilities. It is expedient in today’s society for law enforcement organizations to address this 21st century development that has become a reality. #6 Quantitative, Qualitative, and Advocacy Research Approach The effects that social media has on law enforcement can be both negative and positive. In this research I have indicated how social media is affecting law enforcement negatively. The following is three hypothetical research approaches for the statement and purpose of the statement. The hypothetical approaches are quantitative research, qualitative research, and pragmatic approach. A significant part of analyzing a project is research. To define a particular project’s outcome, researchers use several research methods. This paper will discuss the characteristics and differences of the action, mixed, qualitative and quantitative research. Also the paper will discuss how to select the best method of research for a project. Quantitative Research Approach Quantitative research focuses on data’s quantitative characteristics. Data is explored by using statistical tools. Moreover, to resolve the research issues, this method is associated with the statistic format usage like, statistical models, figures and numeric data. This method is significant to target the enormous sized individuals’ group. Researchers use interview, questionnaire or survey in this type method (Amaratunga, Sarshar, Baldry & Newton, 2002).Quantitative research involves collecting numerical data to calculate and come to a conclusion. The process helps with more than one hypotheses. It also helps answer questions that will address predictions of possible relationships among variables. Aiding the search for answers one would use various papers or computers to search for a plan to be executed. This analysis allows researchers to decide the relationship among the variables. Relationship in variables can be association or just casual relationships. Statistical analysis will allow the researcher to determine the extent of how a variable influences other variables. The results of statistical analysis are presented in P value (Sage Research Method, 2013). This approach will be used to determine how social media is affecting law enforcement officers. Taking data of how many individuals use social media websites to make comments, post videos, or post pictures that have a negative effect on law enforcement officers. Also data will be taken of individuals who post comments, post videos, or post pictures that produce positive effects on law enforcement officers. Once the data has been collected, it will be compared against each other to determine the statistical analysis and find the P value (Sage Research Method, 2013). Qualitative Research Qualitative research methods focuses on the meaning of realities and interpretations. Qualitative research is an approach usually associated with a paradigm that emphasizes the social constructed nature of reality. It involves recording, analyzing, and attempting to find the true meaning of the behavior of humans and experience. This includes contradictions in beliefs, behavior, and emotions. This research process is intended to give a better understanding of a person’s experience and not gathering information that is general and in large groups (QSR International, 2013). In the qualitative method of research presentation, words, or pictures etc. are used to disclose the issue. In this method, researchers target small number of respondents to achieve the research’s objectives. To reach at a conclusion, researchers use several methods, for example: review, in-depth interview, focused group interview, etc. (Ponterotto, 2005).Qualitative researchers when using this type of research process look for a pattern for a meaning. It goes from specific to general and it is referred as the bottom-up approach. This research is not based on a pre-determined hypotheses. However, researchers specifically identify a problem or topic that he or she wants to study. The researcher maybe guided by a theoretical lens. This provides a framework for the research. This research approach is methodical which allows broad flexibility. The data collected is in textual form of observations and interactions with participants by participant observation, interviews, and focus groups. The data collected is carried in various ways instead of only one. Researchers using this research process may want to adopt the mid-way process to address other issues and eliminate questions that do not apply. In some cases, the researchers will interview or observe a set number of people. In other cases, the process of data collection and analysis may continue until the researchers find that no new issues that are emerging (QSR International, 2013). This research process will be used to find out the reason why individuals are using social media outlets to harm law enforcement officers. This method will require interviewing, observing, and using focus groups to gather information of the true reasons why individuals want to negatively affect law enforcement officers This involves asking questions that will determine if the reasons are fueled by bad experiences with law enforcement officers or that they just have issues with authority figures (QSR International, 2013). Advocacy or Participatory Approach This research approach is used when the researcher feels the previous approaches did not respond to the needs or to the situation of individuals in a marginalized or vulnerable group. Because this research approach aims to bring positive changes in the lives of the individuals being researched, their approach is described as emancipatory. It is not a neutral stance. The researchers have a private agenda of giving the individuals a voice (University of Kansas, 2013). Researchers might adopt a less neutral position than one in which it is usually required in scientific researches. This can involve informal interactions and even living amongst the participants. The data collected may be reported in personal terms. Often researchers use exactly the same words the research subject used. This type of research is often criticized for not being objective, but it need to be noted that in some research cases it is necessary as this type of research would otherwise not include the feelings and thoughts of participants (University of Kansas, 2013). This research approach will be utilized to understand the reasons why the individuals are using social media to damage the reputation and harm law enforcement officers. The idea would be to make sure to gather as much information on the feelings and thoughts of the individuals concerning law enforcement officers (University of Kansas, 2013). Compare and Contrast While seeking for the best method, it would actually hinge on the researcher that what he or she is seeking for attain from the research outcomes. Quantitative research is gathering data that is converted into numbers to decide the results of the research. Qualitative research collects data in order to gather information and find out the reason for the outcome. Advocacy or participatory research is when the participants are asked about their feelings and thoughts behind the topic and in this case the social media and law enforcement. They are studied and interviewed. In qualitative research the approach to data collection and analysis is methodical but allows for greater flexibility than in quantitative research. Data is collected in textual form on the basis of observation and interaction with the participants through participant observation, in-depth interviews and focus groups. It is not converted into numerical form and is not statistically analyzed. When both quantitative and qualitative measurements are required to be implemented in the research then the mixed method research would be appropriate. Furthermore, when processes in a specific research are required to be improved continually the action research would be appropriate (Rohrer, 2008). Conclusion Either using qualitative, quantitative, or advocacy research approach, the researcher needs to understand that in some aspects the individuals using social media to affect law enforcement might be influence by others. Also this might be learned behavior from family members or parents. In the end, the research needs to find the reasons and analyze it to find a solution to prevent individuals from using social media and other outlets to damage the reputation and harm law enforcement officers.

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