Social media impacting law enforcement investigations

By: Alicia Turner | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 11, 2018

TALLAHASSEE Fla. (WCTV) -- On any given day a post published to a public social media page can be viewed over one hundred times, and shared thousands more, all within a matter of minutes. The more eyes that land on any post means more likes and comments.As social media continues to grow, so does the demand for getting knowledge.

Will Wheatley owns The Social Source. He explained that the expectation of immediate feedback is changing the way many people operate, from private sector to public agencies.

"They're expecting that immediate feedback and immediate result," says Wheatley. "People will get so frustrated."

That frustration prompted a post from the Thomasville Police Department, as thousands weigh in with questions regarding the disappearance of 70-year-old Deanna Shirey.

"This isn't TV." and “We’re not giving away any specifics,” the post read in part. People wanting answers and information immediately is a trend law enforcement agencies are seeing nationwide.

"Social media has changed a lot of how we do investigations," said Deputy Dave Teems with the Leon County Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Teems said the goal is to be transparent, but never jeopardize the case.

"We're going to give you as much information as we possibly can at that time, not only to preserve our investigation, but also to make sure that the public is aware that we're doing what we can to solve whatever case we're working at the time," says Teems.

Teems said while most people simply want to be helpful, it's important to know the agency is likely doing all they can to keep the public informed.

But, Wheatley said sometimes, it's just not enough.

"They're used to having their voice heard quickly, and getting a response as quickly as possible," Wheatley says.

A response that could change the entire course of any investigation.

The Thomasville Police Department is continuing to ask for help to locate Shirey. Officers say it’s OK to like and share the post to get the word out, they simply ask that those with questions be patient as they work to get the answer.

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