Law enforcement and Facebook Live became mutual buzz words on August 1st, 2016. During a standoff in Baltimore County, MD, Korryn Gaines was broadcasting the standoff through Facebook Live and posting photos and videos to her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Police had arrived that morning to serve arrest warrants on Gaines ( failure to appear in court) and her boyfriend (domestic battery). With assistance from the landlord, police ultimately gained access to the residence where they found Gaines and her five year old son sitting on the floor while holding a shotgun and filming police.
As Gaines broadcasted the standoff online, through Facebook Live, viewers began to encourage her to resist surrendering , hampering negotiations. This prompted law enforcement to submit an emergency request to Facebook to suspend her Facebook and Instagram accounts, in which Facebook complied with about an hour later. Unfortunately Gaines did not surrender and was shot when raising her weapon at police officers. Despite the sad ending, the actions taken by the Baltimore County Police Department to suspend her account has erupted in accusations of police abuses.
Social media accounts reveal that Korryn Gaines expressed beliefs similar to those of the Sovereign Citizens group. Months prior to the shooting, she posted a video to Instagram documenting a traffic stop where she resisted arrest. She was pulled over for having a cardboard license plate that read, “Any government official who compromises this pursuit to happiness and right to travel, will be held criminally responsible and fined, as this is a natural right to freedom.” This was the event that led to her Failure to Appear warrant. Due to her views and the increased tensions surrounding officer involved shootings, accusations of police cover ups cycled through social media from her friends and family. The manner in which Facebook deactivated the account and then reactivated it with missing content has added to the conspiracy theories that Gaines was targeted and killed for her views.
Facebook Live has recently been present in other officer involved shootings. Philando Castile’s girlfriend used Facebook Live to broadcast the aftermath of Castile being shot during a traffic stop. In Dallas, many users were broadcasting live on Facebook as police were attempting to locate the shooter that killed five officers. More crimes are being broadcasted not only on Facebook Live, but other live streaming apps such as Periscope. Live streaming will create numerous challenges for law enforcement going forward.
The biggest challenge may come from Facebook and other social media sites. The site has been under fire for complying with the request to deactivate Gaines’s account. The company does reserve the right to deactivate her account based on her violating the policy agreement when she posted violent material. Despite this, many critics still feel this was overreach by the government and will open Pandora’s Box by allowing censorship of streams when convenient for the government. While Facebook continues to defend their actions, this event has the potential to drive the company to become even more stringent in their compliance with law enforcement requests. (Which many in the community would agree Facebook is difficult to work with at times)
Other challenges arise from the increasing popularity of live streaming applications. The notoriety that viral streams create; can lead to the expectations that most arrests, standoffs, and pursuits will be videotaped and possibly live streamed. During the recent shooting at UCLA, a Periscope user flew a drone over the campus and live streamed the footage from the drone in attempts to reach cordoned off areas. This ability could not only affect police operations, but has the potential to create dangerous situations.
The recent riots in Milwaukee were fueled by social media posts encouraging more than 200 people to participate in the rioting, such as in the photo example.
Live streaming has the potential to show law enforcement in a negative perspective, as in the Philando Castile shooting. The perspective that viewer’s only see is the aftermath of the shooting and not the events that led to the shooting. The same perception can occur during arrests and other events involving law enforcement. Body cams may be imperative for all law enforcement agencies to combat the negative social media content originating from suspects and third parties.
At a time when tensions are high, it is imperative that law enforcement understand the capabilities of live streaming apps are and how they could impact operations and aid in their investigations. Juliet Bravo Solutions has the educational training you need to stay ahead of Facebook Live and other streaming apps.