Editorial: CPD’s Facebook page shows lack of transparency, honesty

Hopping on the train of the digital age, the Columbia Police Department created a Facebook page to serve as a public relations platform. The page advertises itself as venue for “input and positive comments about CPD,” and initial posts by CPD have already provided relevant information to its subscribers.

Recent activity, however, shows CPD was more serious about the “positive” in “positive comments” than it seemed on first glance.

As an exercise of asking what viewers would like to see posted on the page, CPD conducted a poll consisting of different options of what information could be shared. Most of the options were fairly simplistic, ranging from most-wanted lists to road closure notices, but subscribers were also given the option to request other information.

One poster, Keep Columbia Free president Mark Flakne, added the option, “An accounting of asset forfeiture funds,” a suggestion that ultimately gained the majority of votes from page subscribers.

Rather than addressing the matter openly, CPD deleted the poll.

We’ve already talked about social media pages choosing to delete content as a part of their public relations policies, and don’t want to send the message that CPD is by some vague law required to post any information simply because people request it through a Facebook post.

However, hastily deleting the poll without any clear statement as to why sets a quite fishy precedent for how CPD plans to conduct itself online. Social media pages are intended to provide public forums, venues through which users can voice opinions, positive or negative. CPD is ultimately allowed to moderate its content how it chooses; but with no clear policies in place, all deletion of content will seem arbitrary and questionable, if not disrespectful to those who choose to interact in the forum.

In an interview with The Maneater, CPD spokeswoman Jill Wieneke said the Facebook page was not an appropriate venue for asset forfeiture information, and that such information is readily available through Sunshine requests. We don’t deny this.

So why not say that to your page viewers who showed overwhelming interest in the matter? We applauded MU for explaining its content policies to its viewers, and feel CPD should follow the same guidelines. Otherwise, the positive social media presence CPD desires to embody will increasingly be defined by its lack of transparency, its dishonest conduct and its inability to face public criticism.

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