From the individual perspective and the broader perspective of society, we are able to achieve growth and success from our connections and communication with one another. Social media websites like Facebook have a ‘sticky’ appeal. People return to keep updated with the most recent gossip and to connect with friends. However, the enchantment of social media is not restricted to people inside one’s own social circle. It has penetrated mass audiences and altered the behaviors of societies. It has advanced the way we connect and share.

It is not unusual to witness social behavior shared through the Internet. Those that have grown up in the age of the web are are commonly those most able to adapt to new web technologies, and they are definitely on the forefront of social media of all types. They have also extra technological know-how as compared to a lot of the older generations. In many aspects, Social media can positively impact our daily lives. Much like the early days of the telephone, it allows us to connect with people in new ways removing geographic barriers.

Because social media has quickly integrated itself into almost all elements of our private and professional lives, it is easy to neglect its ability to be used in a negative manner. Bullying, once an activity that required people to have person-to-person dialogue, has now moved online, breaking down the physical barriers once required for such abuse. Cyber bullying, as it’s often referred, comes in many forms including verbal harassment, social exclusion and slander.

Because of the seemingly anonymous nature of the web, the effects of Cyber bullying can often be lost on the perpetrator. Cyber bullying is unlike the traditional schoolyard-bulling scenario where the ramifications of the bullying can be immediately observed. For many, cyber bullying has lead to depression, self-harm, and even suicide.

This week we saw yet another case of yber bulling but unlike the numerous cases we have read about before, this time the cyber bullying came from the very people we call upon to protect us.

Andrew Cain, 19, committed suicide on Sunday, several days after the Latah County Sheriff’s Office posted a Facebook comment about Cain. The comment read: “We have decided that Andrew Cain is no longer the Wanted Person of the Week… He is the Wanted Person of the Month of June. Congratulations!”

The post then fueled further bullying, which Cain’s sister says eventfully, caused Andrew to take his own life.

In an interview with Cain’s sister shared her sense of betrayal.

“Those are the people protecting us, that is just not right,” she added.
Smith told Cain about the Facebook post. She said strangers began sending her brother online messages about the Facebook comment. Smith believes the messages became too much for Cain.

“It’s like he couldn’t escape it for five minutes cause everyone around him shared it and was bringing it up,” added Smith. Cain’s sister said she wants an apology from the person who actually made the online post.

Maintaining law and order in the society does not give the police the right to engage in petty public shaming and character assassination especially when considering crimes, such as marijuana possession, that pose no imminent risk to public safety. I truly hope that this case will lead others both in and out of law enforcement to think more carefully about how they use social media.

We are interested to hear your opinions. Please share your thoughts below. Were the police overstepping their grounds or were they justified in their action?

Adam Chronister is co-founder of Enleaf, an award winning Web Design and Internet Marketing Firm. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments (7)

Like you mention above, I don’t think it’s right at all to make public petty criminals that pose no harm to others a big deal and shame them on facebook or any other social media for that matter. If they have to post petty stuff, the professional law officers should leave the jokes to the facebook commenters and only post what it is needed to find the suspect.

On the other hand, those who do deserve to be shamed are those that commit crimes against others such as sex offenders, kidnappers, murderers etc… I believe it’s our duty to publicly shame them and make the public aware of the danger they pose to our community.

Heather Wood June 28, 2013

I just get frustrated because I feel that some (not all) in places of authority take advantage of this authority. I know we cant blanket every police offer or even everyone with in the Latah County Sheriff’s Office as abusers of authority but the comments left on this Facebook post sends a very negative and disrespectful message. It seems to set the tone that if you are a criminal then you can be treated however the police see fit. Yes there is punishment for crimes but that is the courts job not the police.

Adam June 28, 2013

I believe that we gave not just the right but encouragement to publicly shame anyone they want to when we instituted the public sex offender registry. No one, no one, NO ONE deserves to be shamed and harassed like that. When you allow it for one, no matter how despised, you have given the okay for anyone to be harassed for any reason.

Lois Marshall June 28, 2013

@Lois Marshall. If that is your name….

Your post is invalid.

Heather Wood June 28, 2013

The officer responsible was Sgt. Doug Anderson. LCSO removed their Facebook page, which I consider to be a step in the right direction, although that may only be temporary until the public outcry wears off.

Imagine being paid over $50,000 a year plus nice benefits compliments of the government to wear a gun and a badge and play around on Facebook. That in itself ought to should send up red flags. I say that whole county department needs a complete overhaul on what its priorities are, and any mature adults with some influence in the county may want to clean up their “day care center” of gun toters but with these small and entrenched type of communities I doubt anything will change. Latah County is a college community, it’s not exactly the real world, so maybe for lack of anything better to do some of LCSO’s finest pick on a few folks to pass the time to give themselves the illusion of being powerful and useful. Recently the department even requested salary increases which they are likely to receive. Hey, why not give them all free passes to the local gym and free beer too as part of their public handouts.

A good place to start with a good department which is professional is to hire grownups, not tallywackers in adult bodies. I doubt many of LCSO’s deputies would survive a month in a NYC precinct.

Lynn June 28, 2013

@Lynn Good points here. I like your tid but about “Hey, why not give them all free passes to the local gym and free beer too as part of their public handouts.” gave me a chuckle even though the entire situation is not all that funny.

Adam June 28, 2013

Whoever is in charge of that law enforcement agency is probably a bully himself, and as is typical of any group who has a tyrant for a boss or leader, the ones “beneath” those tyrants usually tend to mimic them and bully anyone they consider vulnerable if they get an opportunity. And in this case, it cost an emotionally vulnerable young man his life.

Adam, to quote the last sentence of your article, “Maintaining law and order in the society does not give the police the right to engage in petty public shaming and character assassination especially when considering crimes, such as marijuana possession, that pose no imminent risk to public safety,” that was very nicely put and it cuts right to the chase.

Lynn June 29, 2013

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