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Joplin Police Social Media Postings End After Disagreement With - KOAM TV 7

Joplin Police Social Media Postings End After Disagreement With City Manager

Updated:
Joplin, MO -

UPDATE 1/16/2018:

Discussion continued this evening about JPD's Incident Spotlight on social media during the city council meeting. According to Capt. Trevor Duncan, half of the council supported allowing JPD to resume the Incident Spotlight while the other half was still against it. Duncan says City Manager Sam Anselm is allowing the department to resume the Incident Spotlight, but under his guidelines. We will continue following this story.

ORIGINAL:

A popular social media connection between Joplin police and the public is shut down.  The Joplin Police Department began posting "incident spotlight" reports on its Facebook page in August of last year.  The reports highlighted specific arrests and incident calls.  But e-mails we have obtained through the Sunshine Law show disagreements over those posts between the police department and City Hall.

E-mails show Joplin Police Chief Matt Stewart and Captain Trevor Duncan made the case for these online posts after City Manager Sam Anselm wrote to Stewart, "Please tell Captain Duncan to stop posting the incident spotlights...until we have a chance to talk about them again.  I have a hard time seeing how they benefit the community.  We can find other ways to highlight the positive activities of the department without creating and inviting divisiveness online."

In another e-mail to Stewart, Anselm asked if the incident spotlight posts are common in other cities, and if the posts are click-bait to get more Facebook likes.  Stewart replied that other police agencies have posts similar to JPD's incident spotlight, and it is not click bait.

"It tells people what to look out for," says Lamar resident Jacob Ruiz who visits Joplin.  "What to watch for.  What to be aware of when you're out."

But not all Joplin residents feel incident reports should be on police departments' social media pages.

"If I had a friend or someone who got arrested, and several other people got arrested that day, that would be offensive for him to be the highlight story on their Facebook page," says Lori Williams.

Police Captain Trevor Duncan wrote to Chief Stewart that the social posts are needed because they let people know what officers are doing, what's going on in the Joplin community, and about officers' efforts to work hard and combat crime; unique cases of robbery, to drug busts, and public indecency.

Anselm declined an on-camera interview with us, instead sending us this statement:  "I've encouraged the police department to come up with other ideas to share information that will serve the public in a way that doesn't add to the negativity and divisiveness that currently exists in the online world."

 The Joplin Police Department reports no official complaints about its "incident spotlight" posts.

In a statement today, police department officials said they were given new guidelines today that don't support the incident spotlight as a continuing feature.

Click here to view all the e-mails we received as part of our Sunshine Law request.  (Low toner in one of the Joplin police printers made some documents faded.)

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