During the six-hour standoff, many photos and videos were shot and posted showing locations of officers and special response unit personnel. Hutchinson Police Chief Jeff Hooper took time to address the balance of free speech with the safety of his officers. “At my agency we have absolutely nothing to hide. I am open, I am transparent, I try to let the community know everything that we are doing,” Hooper said. “A lot of the success or failure of an emergency response team is based on appropriate tactics.”
Hooper says such video or photos on social media could be used against law enforcement and put them and the subject in more danger. “In a tactical situation, with people videotaping us, it would not be uncommon for the suspect in this incident last Thursday, for example, to be watching us or monitoring social media,” Hooper said. He gave an example of a similar situation where a person was providing live video of the standoff. Dispatch was letting law enforcement know that their movements were being put on social media.
Hooper says access to social media by those who may have a hostage, or are in a standoff, could be used against law enforcement. Hooper added that negotiations can hinge on keeping the subject calm in a hostage situation. “There’s often times when we’re negotiating with them we have officers in place, but we don’t want the suspect to see that because we don’t want to put any undue pressure on him or we don’t want to force him into anything rash,” Hooper stated.
Hooper says the use of social media has reached the point where the police department is constantly monitoring it so officers can determine if safety is being compromised. “We now have to monitor that,” Hooper said. “We are at our command post and we are seeing what things are going out on social media, we’re seeing if somebody’s Facebook-living it.” Hooper says he has to use resources to make sure they can prevent their officers from being placed in harm’s way adding there have been times during an emergency situation where he has discussed social media with Sheriff Randy Henderson to determine if their officers are being put in danger.
Not only can a person put an officer in danger by giving up tactical information on social media, but it can also be a crime if the information is given to a subject intentionally.