How to Handle Negative Social Media Issues–Specifically, Negative Facebook Posts

Guest Blogger: Chris Perkins, Chief of Police, Roanoke, Virginia, Police Department

At the Roanoke, Virginia, Police Department, we encourage our Facebook page to be an open dialogue. Community integration and maintaining an open dialogue with the public is crucial to our success. We often learn what the community is thinking regarding a certain issue through social media. If someone has a question and that person is comfortable posting it on Facebook, we will post an answer. If someone has a concern, we want to hear about it. If someone has a complaint, we want to hear that, too. If citizens want to post concerns or complaints on Facebook, we will post a response when appropriate. Other citizens may have the same question or concern, and by posting a response, we have helped dispel rumors or calm fears. We do expect our citizens to be respectful when posting and to remember that we are a diverse community and will not tolerate offensive or inappropriate comments.

When citizens visit our Facebook page for the first time, they are greeted by a welcome page. On that page is the following message warning citizens about positing offensive or inappropriate comments:

We welcome you and your comments to Roanoke Police Department’s Facebook Page. We encourage you to submit your questions, comments, and concerns, but please note this is a moderated online discussion site and not a public forum.

Once posted, the Roanoke Police Department reserves the right to delete submissions that contain:

(i) vulgar language;

(ii) personal attacks of any kind;

(iii) offensive comments that target or disparage any ethnic, racial, or religious group.

Further, the Department also reserves the right to delete comments that are:

(i) spam or include links to other sites;

(ii) clearly off topic;

(iii) advocate illegal activity;

(iv) promote particular services, products, or political organizations;

(v) infringe on copyrights or trademarks.

Please note that the comments expressed on this site do not reflect the opinions and position of the Roanoke Police Department or its officers and employees.

Once citizens “like” this welcome page, they have full access to our Facebook page. Since the inception of our Facebook page in November 2009, the department has deleted fewer than 10 inappropriate or offensive comments. In addition, it has been our experience that citizens often come to our defense when negative comments are posted.

IACP 2011 has special workshops covering social media issues for law enforcement. For information, to register, and to secure housing, visit

The IACP Center for Social Media has a corresponding blog, The Social Media Beat. Bloggers include IACP staff and practitioners in the field who can provide a unique frontline perspective about law enforcement’s use of social media. For more on social media best practices, visit

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One Response to How to Handle Negative Social Media Issues–Specifically, Negative Facebook Posts

  1. Great post Chief Perkins,

    My experience has been that nearly all law enforcement agencies fear negative posts on Facebook more than reality bears out. Your experience having to delete about ten so far is right about in-line with what others have found to be true as well. I applaud you for keeping your page/wall open for citizen initiated comments.

    I like the idea of putting your Takedown police in the welcome tab. But if you’d rather include a nice welcome message – maybe a video from you – you could add a “Facebook Terms” or “Takedown Policy” tab as some other agencies have done.!/LongBeachPD.CA!/TorontoPolice

    Both of the above are based on a freely available document on the ConnectedCOPS blog. It’s the first document at the following link.

    I hope to meet you at the IACP Conference in Chicago.

    Lauri Stevens

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