On Twitter, Sal LaBarbera is a popular, jovial Los Angeles homicide detective known as the “LA Murder Cop.” But after he recently tweeted a photo to his 3,500-plus Twitter followers that showed a bloody crime scene, some people have started to question his judgment and whether cops should share such photos on social media .
The blog LA Taco called the decision to post the photo “callous,” and said it “crossed the line.” The blog LA Weekly wrote that “Even though [detectives’] work happens out in the open, where everyone can see it or snap a smartphone pic, a different standard is put to them.”
LaBarbera, who has been working the criminal gang homicide division for 26 years, doesn’t agree. He tweets often from the crime scene and said if he had known all the attention that the bloody photo would get, “I would have done [it] sooner. Stop the violence.”
(WARNING: LaBarbera’s photo is below.)
LAPD said there is an internal investigation of the photo tweeting underway but that there is no set department policy about employees using social media, local TV station KCAL9 reported.
LaBarbera’s case, it seems, falls into a gray area, and it opens a window onto a larger issue — that cops are struggling with how much to share or leave out on social media.
In Manchester, England, police have started tweeting the names, addresses, birth dates, imposed jail sentences and other personal information of looters. Manchester citizens responded by calling the decision shameful.
The same force also experimented just several days ago with putting every incident it deals with for 24 hours on their Twitter account, so that followers would understand how hard they’re working. For that effort, the force got criticized for wasting time.
U.S.-based blog Connected Cops offers another analysis for why American cops aren’t using Twitter very much — law enforcers are worried tweeting could “come back to haunt them” in the form of lawsuits.
While LaBarbera offended some people, it’s unlikely he’d face any sort of legal action.
And some police forces are now working to find a compromise. While the D.C. Fire department’s Twitter account was shut down in August following worries that sensitive information was being posted, the account was relaunched in September with the promise of the same information, just with “more discretion.”