What cops should know about ‘checking in’ on social media

Are you and your family unknowingly broadcasting enough information to give an attacker a better chance to target you?

About a week before Christmas, a 20-year veteran of the San Jose (Calif.) Police Department posted these tweets on his personal account:

Threaten me or my family and I will use my God-given and law appointed right and duty to kill you.
By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.

I’m guessing that the first tweet shows anger at the violent protests against peace offices doing their jobs that have been happening around the country. The second tweet most certainly is a reference to 43-year-old Eric Garner, who repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” while a New York officer held him in a chokehold that authorities said contributed to Garner’s death.

There is a lot of outrage because law enforcement is under fire, even from the highest political offices of our country. But who reasonably believes that it is their law appointed right to kill someone who threatens them or their family?

The Dangers Are Real
This officer’s career is in a heap of trouble, yet he does have something of a point with regard to his life. Just like every U.S. citizen, cops have the right to defend themselves and their family from an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm — because of their line of work, cops may be subject to more threats than the average citizen.

In October of 2014 the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to military and police that the Islamic State and its supporters are encouraging attacks against law enforcement and government personnel and their families.

A correctional officer friend of mine told me that he had a previous “guest of the county” come running toward him across a mall parking lot while shouting “Hey a**hole, f*** you!” 

He and his wife had trained for this type of event and she knows to move away from him while he shuts down the situation. Have you and your family trained for this type if event?

I’ve previously discussed why full-time off-duty carry is necessary for every peace officer. Defending your family and yourself is just another reason for you to carry whenever possible.

An Ounce of Prevention
The best way to prevent an attack is to keep a low profile. You already know that of course, but are you and your family unknowingly broadcasting enough information to give an attacker a better chance to target you?

Do you or family members use Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, LinkedIn or other apps that allow you to “check in” at a location?
Do you post photos online that were taken with a smart phone or digital camera?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you could be putting yourself at risk. Even if you know to keep a low profile and don't have any of these accounts, your family could be giving enough information away to make easy targets of all of you.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use these apps, just that you should look at the privacy settings and perhaps disable or limit some of the sharing and location-based functionality. If you check in using one of these apps, you not only broadcast where you are, but also where you are not — like the fact that you are not at home.

Most smartphones and digital cameras stamp each photo with the time that a photograph was taken, and also the location. Did you upload a bunch of holiday photos? You may have unwittingly uploaded your home address with them. This article teaches you how to strip the location information before you upload your photos.

You might want give your family an updated safety talk. The world is getting more dangerous every day and keeping a low profile is one good way to defend yourself.

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