Social Media Update

 

25290095_mlDon’t Let the Trolls Get You Down
By Capt. Stephen Jones

Let’s say your agency is in a serious and committed relationship with social media. Your Facebook account is growing and the majority of your followers are true fans. You’re solving crimes as your posts are spread far and wide and the positive stories about your agency are making your local news outlets jealous of the clicks and shares you receive.

You’re wondering how you ever lived without this great social media partnership. And then it happens; one of the few haters who watches your feed–an Internet troll who has nothing better to do with his time than make snide and disrespectful comments on your posts–that creep pushes your social media coordinator a little too far. Your coordinator, we’ll call that person Sgt. Admin, raises his or her index finger and violently strikes the keys to delete the troll’s comments and block them from “liking” your page. I know. So what! The troll didn’t really “like” your page to begin with, so they shouldn’t miss the access you just shut down. But it was all a troll’s trap.

Now you receive an Open Public Records Act request from said troll who wants all your social media posts and a complete printout of all hidden post responses and users blocked. Uh-oh. You watch as Sgt. Admin coughs and sweats. Turns out there’s not one troll, but a small colony of the creatures he or she exiled and never kept track of because “they were being nasty and deserved to be banned.”

And it gets worse! Mr. Troll, Esq. (Sgt. Admin didn’t know he was a lawyer when the banning took place) also filed a lawsuit claiming that you violated his First Amendment rights by blocking his access. Wait one stinking minute! These are your agency’s accounts. He is free to say whatever he wants to the three so-called friends on his own Facebook page. Your page is not there to provide him with a bigger audience for his rants.

Now sigh deeply and admit defeat. I tried those same arguments to the AG’s lawyers who helped us craft our Terms of Use agreement. It seems that as government agencies, we operate under different standards than John Q. Troll. Our buildings, records, and yes, even our social media accounts belong to the people. I tried arguing that we wouldn’t let someone scrawl their free speech on the side of the AG’s office building because that’s not the purpose of the building and neither is that the purpose of our Facebook account. Nope. The lawyers weren’t buyin’ what I was selling.

The good news is that there are limits to what your detractors can do on your social media accounts. Armed with a sound Terms of Use Policy, preferably one approved by a legion of lawyers, there are even justifications for blocking users or hiding comments. You also have the choice to ban all comments and reduce your stress, but you will reduce your effectiveness by not engaging the public. It seems that there are good anti-trolls who enjoy throwing verbal love and heart emojis at the feet of every K-9 photo you post. You can’t rob them of that pleasure because they are the same people who share your suspect photos and Amber Alert messages.

Next, make sure you have a healthy selection of forbidden words defined in your Facebook settings. This will immediately and without prejudice to any viewpoint prevent people from replying to your posts with the F-bomb in all its glorious forms, and block an endless variety of potty-mouthed name calling.

You can hide responses by users when they have violated your Terms. Don’t take this action too lightly. You must allow opinions contrary to those who honor a free and lawful society, even if you know they are idiots. You do not have to allow comments that incite violence, threaten, harass… Read our Terms and you’ll get the idea. You can also block users (mostly bot generated) that post links to IQ tests or other inane ad sites, which could actually be malicious programming in disguise.

Make sure Sgt. Admin has some PIO training before saddling him or her with the serious responsibility of managing your social media. There are some who, by their funny but reckless posts, have generated large Twitter or Facebook followings only to have those accounts closed after a judge finds in favor of the stupid criminal that resented being called stupid in front of 100,000 of your fans.

Lastly, if you’re going to hide and block trolls, keep a file with screenshots of comments and even your own posts that you take down. When we as law enforcement officers make records, even on social media, there’s a good chance a judge may ask us to cough them up.

Now, with your new social media parameters tightly set, go crazy like a kid in a moon bounce, rather than one on a trampoline with no net. You’ll find you last longer and have more fun.

Captain Stephen Jones is the Director of Communications for the New Jersey State Police, where he runs the Office of Public Affairs. As a dectective, he received commendations for document fraud investigations prior to his assignment to Public Affairs. Steve holds a B.A. in communications and a Masters in administration. He will be retiring and looking for his next career late this summer.

Legal Perspective

Ethics Over Winning
By Timothy C. Parlatore, Esq

In today’s world where news headlines frequently highlight wrongful convictions being overturned and innocent people being exonerated, one has to wonder what effect this has on the “war on police” and how it can be prevented.

As a criminal defense attorney, I have spent a fair amount of time cross-examining cops, pointing out holes in their stories, and arguing that they have arrested the wrong person. But, as a guy who makes a living tearing apart cops’ testimony, I am going to let you in on a little secret: I don’t blame the cops, I blame the prosecutors.

Before I became an attorney, I wore the uniform of a Naval Officer. I deployed twice in support of the Global War on Terror and later spent two years commanding a reserve military law enforcement unit. I believe that the vast majority of police officers get up every day and go to work intending to do the right thing to protect their community; I do not believe that they intend to arrest innocent people.

Sure, there are exceptions. We have all heard horror stories about investigators forcing false confessions and framing innocent people, but the reality is that these are few and far between. Most of the cases that I see involve cops that are doing the best that they can with the resources available. They make the arrest and pass the case on to the prosecutors. It is here that the problems begin.

As police officers, all that is required to make an arrest is probable cause. However, in order to turn an arrest into a conviction, a prosecutor must develop the case to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt––a much higher standard. And rather than choosing from a wide array of suspects, most prosecutors are singularly focused on strengthening the case against the defendant that they have, because that is the easiest way for them to keep their conviction rate high.

The vast majority of cases where I have seen innocent people wrongfully tried or convicted are not because the police intentionally arrested the wrong person. Rather, it is the prosecutors, who manipulate the evidence and suppress exculpatory evidence to increase their chances of winning. As a case goes through motion practice and discovery, evidence may come to light that is inconsistent with the original theory of the case. All too often, prosecutors will then try to fit the square peg into the round hole, prioritizing winning over ethics and justice.

Compounding the problem is the fact that prosecutors are almost never held accountable for their misconduct. Prosecutorial immunity ensures that they are shielded from the risk of any civil lawsuits for wrongful convictions and that those suits are brought only against the police officers and their department, not the prosecutors or their offices. Thus, the prosecutors are able to continue their careers unscathed, while allowing the police to become the scapegoats who receive the brunt of public condemnation.

Because of this, it is imperative that police officers always maintain their integrity. I once watched a heated exchange between a prosecutor in Queens and a rookie NYPD officer and his sergeant. The prosecutor was demanding that the officer embellish his testimony to counter one of the defense’s arguments. The young cop was intimidated, but his sergeant stood firm and told the prosecutor to go to hell. As a result, I am sure that prosecutor’s win percentage took a hit, but the wrong person was not sent to prison and the officer maintained his integrity. In that case, the prosecutor lost but the officer, the defendant, and the system won.

On the other hand, I have seen officers testify in a manner that was so obviously coached by the prosecutor that they put their own careers in jeopardy. I almost feel badly when an officer gets caught in a lie, tries to dig himself out and then, ultimately resorts to feigned amnesia, responding to every question with “I do not recall.” I look over at the prosecutor and can see them staring daggers at the officer as they now plan to blame the inevitable acquittal on the officer. Worse yet is the innocent and indigent defendant, represented by a lawyer that does not put in the effort to uncover the truth. In these cases, the prosecutor wins, but the defendant, the officer, and the system loses.

Of course, not every prosecutor is as malicious or unethical as I have described here. But, as long as we live in a system where prosecutors are protected from any accountability by their immunity, and it is only the police officers who are held accountable, it is incumbent upon each and every officer to maintain their personal honor and integrity. It is not worth the risk just to help a prosecutor win a conviction. While some are more high-profile than others, every wrongful conviction undermines the public trust in our police officers.

Timothy C. Parlatore, Esq. is a partner in the law firm ?of FisherBroyles, LLP. He has handled numerous high-profile cases and has represented numerous police officers. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Brooklyn Law School, and is a Navy veteran.

Alert

American tourists to Cuba,
Please be Careful.
By Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent, New Jersey State Police

Col. FuentesOur president is going to Cuba next week, the first official state visit by a seated president in more than 80 years. This visit surely will be followed by regularly-scheduled domestic airline and cruise ship service, rock concerts, major sporting events, U.S. corporate investment and thousands of American tourists curious to see Marxism up close and how an entire country can be reduced to an underclass. In return, Cuba will promise to embrace human rights and throw open its door to free market capitalism.

That’s not going to happen. I join many in recognizing that normalizing relations with Cuba will have little impact on the welfare of the Cuban people or the impoverished state of their surroundings.

Havana is where most of the tourists will likely travel. There is a sprinkling of four and five-star hotels along the scenic port and bay of Havana, several of which have at their backs the barrios of the Old City and Centro Habana. There is something beautiful and rustic about the panorama of poverty when it is viewed from the upper floors of a luxury hotel.

Tourists to Cuba, please be careful. You are not dignitaries with security teams, or part of a pampered and propagandized political delegation fattened and flattered by the type of cuisine and accommodations most Cubans can only dream about. I’m not saying that the jittery Cuban military and police aren’t interested in your movements on the island, but you will have no visible escorts or other functional layers of protection.

You also should know that some of America’s most wanted terrorists are living openly in Cuba. They roam the island freely and are still dangerous revolutionaries, disenchanted about all things American. It is highly unlikely that the Cuban landscape will be swept of their presence before your arrival because U.S. government negotiators speaking on behalf of the current presidential administration seem to lack both the will and intent to press the Castro brothers for their return to the United States to answer for their crimes.

Make no mistake, however, about the will and intent of Governor Chris Christie and the New Jersey State Police to continue to advocate strongly against their privileged and coddled status of political asylum. Four of them, Joanne Chesimard, William Guillermo Morales, Victor Manuel Gerena and Charles Hill hail from U.S.-based domestic terror organizations whose violent track record has brought about the deaths of 17 police officers, 5 American civilians, 2 members of the U.S. military and a string of 159 bombings that have destroyed the lives and families of many more. Victor Gerena remains on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list and Joanne Chesimard holds distinction as the only woman on the photo spread of the FBI’s Most Wanted International Terrorists list.

The FBI and the State of New Jersey continue to pledge a two million dollar reward for Chesimard’s return to prison for her conviction in the murder of a New Jersey trooper in 1973. My connection to Trooper Werner Foerster’s murder by Joanne Chesimard and several accomplices runs the breadth of my career. From the time of her escape from a New Jersey prison on November 2, 1979, to my deeper investigative involvement in her flight from justice while assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in the mid-80s, and into my current role as colonel and superintendent, the New Jersey State Police and I have never lost our determination to see her returned to prison.

For your safety, before you depart for your long awaited Cuban vacation, please visit the New Jersey State Police website at www.njsp.org. You will find the most updated photographs of these four terrorist fugitives accompanied by a short bio from the FBI. If your walk about the island crosses the path of any of these coddled criminals, I would ask you to immediately report their sighting to the U.S. Embassy in Havana. At all hours, the embassy can be reached at (53)(7)839-4100, a handy number to keep in your pocket to mitigate many of the unforeseen perils of travel to Cuba.

Enjoy your trip.

Legal News

Hulk Hogan and Police Officers
What do they have in Common?
By Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq.

As a national TV legal analyst, I am often asked to comment on all types of interesting cases. Recently on Fox News, I was asked to comment on a case involving wrestling “legend” Hulk Hogan, and his lawsuit over a “sex tape” that was provided by an anonymous source to the media outlet, Gawker. This tape reveals Hogan having sex, and was recorded without his knowledge in the bedroom of his female counterpart.

Hogan has sued for invasion of his privacy. Gawker is defending the case, citing the very strong protections given the media, under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Hulk_HoganConstitution.

This case pits two very important constitutional principals at odds with one another, that is, one’s right to privacy, versus the media’s freedom to print “newsworthy” stories.

The premises behind these two constitutional rights is relatively easy, but in a case like this, their opposition to one another is very complex and has very real implications for many people going forward. The people in this trial and their public personas, may be comical to some, but the legal issues at play and their impact on our privacy rights are very real. It is a case worth following.

Essentially, the right to privacy in today’s age has taken a severe beating. With the advent of social media, phone cameras, and news agencies like Gawker that seek to publish scandalous stories, privacy has become very difficult for everyone to maintain. But so too, the right of the media to publish without “editorial supervision” by the government, has been viewed by the courts as an essential tool for a free and democratic society.

The Hogan case is that test case for the courts, and it will have far reaching implications for us all. While sex tape publications are not a novelty, this is the first time it has not been settled and is going to trial. For sure, both sides will argue that they are protected by the Constitution but for different reasons, and under different provisions. Hogan will argue that the surreptitious filming of consenting adults having sex in their bedroom, is a protected privacy right. Gawker will argue that they are protected under the media privilege to publish this material, especially as Hogan is a public figure.

It is true that as a public figure you lose some constitutional protections to privacy under the law, but this case examines just how much privacy a public figure loses. It is also true that in other contexts (like police searches), the courts have held that there is no greater privacy interest than in our homes and bedrooms.

So, how does this affect police officers and other public figures? If Gawker’s defense of this case prevails as a matter of law, then a public official’s privacy rights will have been further minimized, perhaps obliterated. People who illegally invade a public official’s private life (even in the bedroom) will be subjected to having it published, and there will be nothing they can do about it.

In my appearance on Fox News, it was my opinion that the courts need to put a stop to allowing the media to invade a person’s privacy like this. To me, the constitutional underpinnings of the media’s protections were clearly designed by our founding fathers, so that the media was not “chilled” from reporting “newsworthy” stories and democracy was not threatened by muting the press. A person’s sex life in their bedroom does not qualify to be considered essential for democracy if it is not a crime, in my opinion.

I cannot imagine the founding fathers ever contemplated that a person’s sex life in the bedroom was fair game for the media, or that democracy would be adversely affected by not allowing the media to publish a public official’s legal and private sexual encounters.

The media needs to be responsible. While the 1st Amendment is, and should be, jealously guarded in a free society, this does not mean that there are no limitations– especially when that right invades and obliterates another constitutional right, such as our right to privacy.

Some argue any limitation upon the press has a “chilling effect.” But, I feel that allowing this kind of news reporting has a “chilling effect” upon those that may decide against taking a public position, such as a police officer, figuring it is not worth the embarrassment and scrutiny to lose all of their privacy by virtue of their public service.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and let us know your thoughts.
Be safe!

Robert A. Bianchi, Esq., served as the Morris County Prosecutor from June 22, 2007 through February 8, 2013. The New Jersey Supreme Court has awarded him the distinction of being a Certified Criminal Trial Attorney, with less than 1% of the attorneys (approximately 250 attorneys) in this State who are so qualified. Mr. Bianchi is a nationally recognized TV Legal Analyist on many networks and regularly appears weekly on Fox News Network.  Contact can be established via links below…

Email: rbianchi@bianchilawgroup.com

Website: www.bianchilawgroup.com

Twitter: @bianchilawgroup

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thebianchilawgroup/

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Bianchilawgroup/posts

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/5295242?trk=hp-feed-company-name

 

Tactical Mindset

A Tactical Consideration: Applying the Principles 
of the L-Shaped Ambush
By Keith Bott

Law enforcement agencies share many commonalities with America’s military. For one, both have a core mission that attempts to address unwanted behavior perpetrated against the government and its citizens. In addition, most American police departments closely mirror military units in terms of command structure, rank system, and organizational hierarchy. The New Jersey State Police exemplifies these links in many ways because the organization’s first superintendent, Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., was a retired Army officer who relied heavily on his military experience to shape the agency after it was established during the 1920s. Police departments also use tactics, techniques and procedures that were first developed by the Armed Forces. In fact, most Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units have many of the same capabilities as an Army or Marine Corps light infantry squad. Therefore, it is quite common for law enforcement agencies to adopt procedures that were originally developed for military use.

The L-shaped ambush provides one example of a military technique that can be adapted to benefit police officers on patrol. The L-shaped ambush is a simple but extremely effective type of offensive operation used by infantry units against an enemy formation that is either moving or temporarily halted. This type of ambush is employed along a road or trail that bends sharply to form an L-shape, hence the name. Two maneuver units are positioned at separate locations along the short and long legs of the L-shape so enemy forces receive small arms fire from both the front and side after the ambush begins (see Figure 1). The only way to escape a well-established L-shaped ambush is to run directly into small arms and machine gun fire and get behind the ambushers. When properly employed, the L-shaped ambush can completely destroy an entire enemy formation within a few minutes.

Police officers can use the basic idea behind the L-shaped ambush to achieve a tactical advantage in a number of different situations. During a motor vehicle stop, for example, two officers can approach the suspect vehicle in an L-shaped formation (see Figure 2) to achieve several distinct advantages:

1) Suspects have to content with fire from the flank and rear in deadly force situations.

2) Officers can easily establish designated sectors of fire to avoid fratricide.

3) The #2 officer may be able to use roadside objects, such as a large tree or retaining wall, for cover and concealment.

4) Officers are able to see more of the suspect vehicle because they are looking at it from two different angles.

5) A routine motor vehicle stop can seamlessly transition into a felony, stop without officers having to reposition or loose security.

6) If more officers arrive on scene, they can easily position themselves on either leg of the L-shape. This allows the additional officers to help the situation and avoid getting in the way or making things more dangerous.

The basic principle of forming an L-shape can be applied to almost any other situation where officers are dealing with a suspect or suspects, and it is pretty simple to implement.

The L-shape technique is one way to be tactically sound but not the only way; officers should consider the drawbacks of using this technique. For example, shooting in two different directions at the same time could increase the risk to innocent bystanders, while the required distance between officers could degrade their ability to communicate with one another. Hopefully, police officers can add the L-shape technique to their bag of tactical options and apply when appropriate. As always, the ultimate goal of every shift is to go home safe; using the principles of the L-shape ambush can help officers do just that.

Keith H. Bott is currently a municipal police officer in Bergen County, NJ. Prior to entering law enforcement, he served seven years in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer. His military awards include the Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Bronze Star. Keith holds a B.A. in Government from Georgetown University and an M.A. in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Remembrance

Sgt. James Ralph Fassnacht
By Joe Uliano

Ralph FassnachtIf we applied a name to the meaning of perseverance, Sgt. James Ralph Fassnacht would be the perfect fit. Sgt. Fassnacht began his law enforcement career as a campus police officer at Montclair State University. While there, he applied to a few larger agencies and was eventually hired by the New Jersey State Police. After performing as an above average recruit, Sgt. Fassnacht broke his leg during week twenty-two at the police academy. As a result of his injury, he was sent home and his dreams were cut short.

However, his perseverance would not allow him to accept that his law enforcement career was over. Due to his commitment to himself and to the law enforcement community, he fought his way back until he was finally hired by the Essex County Police Department. There, he achieved the rank of sergeant, was assigned to the scuba unit and the motor squad. During his time with the motor squad, he would often volunteer his own time, escorting our fallen brothers and sisters to their final resting place. He would also make a point to visit local schools during his lunch breaks, where children could sit on his motorcycle, while he preached to them about staying in school and making something out of their lives.

Unfortunately, Sgt. Fassnacht’s commitment to his profession and the community would tragically end on July 6, 1993, during an on-duty scuba accident in Weequahic Park. At just forty-one-years old, Sgt. Fassnacht was survived by his wife Ellen and their three sons.

In a recent conversation with Ellen, she described her husband as an officer who performed community policing before the concept was heard of or practiced. “He loved police work and loved helping people in need,” Ellen said. “He was a wonderful husband, a wonderful father, a wonderful police officer, that was taken away from us too soon.” May Sgt. Fassnacht continue to rest in peace.

May his life and his service to others never be forgotten!

Wellness

Are you always connected or always distracted?
By Melinda Inzani

In our world today, electronic devices connect us to the Internet, emails, text messages, entertainment, and so much more. Juggling multiple streams of media for parents has become the norm. Whether it is checking soccer schedules for children, answering work emails or answering the phone for your significant other, parents can become distracted.

Can you remember a time while at the park with your children, when half of the parents were not on their electronic devices? Few things require more hands-on attention than young children, but are we able to provide it, with constant text messages, Facebook alerts, and phone calls? Are parents today providing the high level of attention that is needed for children? The world is changing, but what is the impact on distracted parenting for our children?

According to research, compulsive cell phone use has been linked to a history of motor vehicle crashes. In addition, emergency room doctors are beginning to see an increase in injury rates for young children. In a few extreme cases, near drowning and death have also been consequences. One of the many plausible explanations for the surprising increase in injuries for young children is the growing use of hand-held electronic devices.

Electronic devices may be changing the way we parent. For instance, new mothers may text or play a game on their phone while breast-feeding, instead of connecting with their newborn. Parents’ reliable and consistent attention is a core component to form proper emotional processes for children. Research has shown that face-to-face interaction is one of the primary ways children learn. If there is a break within the interaction, such as an email alert, the parent’s attention is diverted and the pattern is broken, and crucial learning may not occur.

Distracted parenting may be more prevalent that we think. Psychologists have expressed concern, specifically over emotional connectivity and language development. Every child has different emotional needs; therefore, distracted parenting can affect each child differently. Some may have difficulty building and maintaining social bonds; some children may even feel neglected, and begin to lose an emotional connection to their parent(s) over time. This is a concern; because within time, this may lead to adolescent isolating themselves from their parent(s), emotional outbursts, social isolation, and possibly even depression or anxiety.

Studies have cited that nearly one third of children feel unimportant when their parents become distracted by their cell phones during meal times, conversations, and television. Some parents agreed with their children’s observation of the need to compete with technology.

Similarly, parents who are overly absorbed in their devices are more likely to respond harshly to a child misbehaving. Research has connected parents who answer emails, texts, or alerts with a sense of urgency and pressure to get the task accomplished. Therefore, when a child misbehaves or interrupts, the parent is much more irritable. New research is providing data that supports our inability to connect with others due to our constant addiction to electronic devices.

At the end of the day, parents are in high demand–work obligations, social connections, spouses and family pressures are a reality for many parents. We only get one chance to raise our children, and the time passes by so quickly. What are we missing; what can we not afford to miss; and most of all, how do we keep it all in balance? One way, is sharing an uninterrupted family meal. Family meals are connected to the health of all family members, as well as for the spirit and brain. Studies link regular family dinners to lower rates of eating disorders in adolescents, substance abuse, obesity, teen pregnancy, depression, higher grade point averages and self-esteem. Give one hour a day to connect with your undivided attention and no electronic devices. It’s time to put family first, think twice before picking up an electronic device when you’re with your children.

Melinda Inzani is a clinical social worker who has worked with multiple populations. She has authored numerous articles, provided training, and has consulted and lectured all over the United States. Melinda has built a successful practice in Midland Park, New Jersey. She is also a professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She is dedicated to the communities she serves and has volunteered her time to several outreach organizations. For more information contact Melinda Inzani, LLC at 201-704-6749.