WSU Police and the Pullman Police Department have seen a shift in their investigative work and responsibilities as a result of posting and collecting information through social media websites.
Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said due to the declining readership of newspapers and listeners of radio, it made sense for the department to use social media and seek out other methods of communicating with the public.
“Social media has a time element to it and Facebook is immediate feedback,” Tennant said. “It’s a 24/7 way of communication, but we have to monitor it 24/7 too.”
Tennant said social media sites are the way of the future and one of the cornerstones of the department is to keep communication lines open with the community.
Concerning the David Warner investigation, Tennant said the case certainly utilized social media and brought to light the use of the tool more than previous investigations.
He said the decisions to post information at certain times are issues that need to be addressed.
“There are some parts of the investigation that we can’t release for either privacy rules or investigative reasons,” Tennant said. “Making those decisions is just a little bit more complicated when you’re dealing with social media.”
WSU Police Cpl. Ashley Edwards said Facebook is the most commonly used tool in the police department and added that social media allows the department to observe the region.
“As long as the people in our community are using these sites and social networking, then we’re going to use it because we want to know and understand the people in our community,” she said.
In the future, Edwards said she thinks using social media for investigations will not be deserted because it has been beneficial to the department, specifying that any information can give them an advantage.
Edwards said social media sites also pose as an information tool and help them with their knowledge basis.
Tennant cautioned people about the information posted on social media webpages because the sites can allow for emotions to sometimes outpace facts.
In the Warner investigation, Tennant said the case was certainly characterized as a beating on social media sites for the first several weeks.
“The term brings up visual connotations in peoples' mind that this was a beating which resulted in these horrific injuries,” Tennant said. “The facts of the case don’t necessarily represent a beating.”
Edwards said she has been in the department for six and a half years and social media sites have been a part of her personal and professional life.
“It’s so prevalent in the community with the people that we deal with in our society these days, that we have all just accepted it as being a part of everybody’s lives,” Edwards said.