Helping or hindering? Social media's impact on police and community relations
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The viral Facebook video showing a JSO officer stopping a young man for jaywalking reached nearly 500,000 views as of Tuesday evening. The video was uploaded two months after a video surfaced of a different JSO officer appearing to spit on a man.
In the wake of these videos, and others of police encounters nationwide, First Coast News looked into the impact social media has had on relations between police and the communities they serve.
“It is the new norm,” said JeffriAnne Wilder, Ph.D. of encounters with police being recorded and uploaded to social media. Wilder is an associate professor of sociology at the University of North Florida and the founding director of UNF’s Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations.
Wilder said she believed these types of encounters with police are nothing new, rather people now have the ability to share them with a mass audience.
“I think everyday people are continuing to do this in order to hold people accountable and to make sure there’s an accurate record and reflection of what’s really happening,” Wilder said.
Wilder said the social media movement started after the acquittal of George Zimmerman as a way for people to share their injustices.
“These kinds of videos just show how important it is to address these issues that happen at the local level, also at the federal and state level,” she said.
Wilder also warned people to have all the facts before rushing to judgment.
“We live in a sort of instantaneous, in-the-moment type of society where we make snap judgments on things without having all of the facts,” she said. “We also need to make sure that we’re getting the balanced perspective and the full picture of what’s happening.”
Wilder cautioned the presence of a camera could escalate the situation. First Coast News crime analyst Mark Baughman agreed.
“Someone feels like they have to record it, and the officer is wondering why do you have to record it,” Baughman said. “So there’s a mind game between the two of them.”
Baughman has 35 years of law enforcement experience at the local and federal level. He said the presence of a camera could change the way an officer acts, along with the way the person behind the camera acts.
“Antagonizing him, trying to goad the officer into some type of verbal exchange where they get cursed at or yelled at or get the officer to do something inappropriate,” Baughman said.
Live streaming is a relatively recent feature on social media. The shooting of Philando Castile last year gained widespread attention when his girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath on Facebook.
In the Jacksonville jaywalking video, one officer on scene appeared to ask one of the men whether he was live streaming.
“It may draw more of an audience if people see it live and think ‘oh, I’m right around the corner from there I’m gonna go over that way.’ When they probably shouldn’t be involved in it,” Baughman said.