COPS are people too and just as likely as anyone else to take to social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to share details of their lives.
But whether off-duty or on, officers sharing personal information online can sometimes present major risks and serious personal and professional consequences for them and the police agencies they work for.
This is just one of a number of emerging police-related issues top brass from law-enforcement agencies from across Canada will wrestle with in Winnipeg over the next three days as they gather at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) annual conference.
With a stated mission of "leading progressive change in policing," the 108-year-old CACP promotes efficient law-enforcement practice across a wide swath of agencies from small-town cop shops to police services in Canada's largest cities.
The 2013 conference allows newly minted Winnipeg Police Service Chief Devon Clunis a national stage to showcase the service he leads as he pushes forward with his vision of crime prevention through co-operative social development.
Among an expected 400 delegates and exhibitors will be Vancouver Police Department Chief Const. Jim Chu and Toronto Police Service Chief William Blair.
In addition to providing time for police leaders and management to network, the CACP gathering also allows the top cops a forum to share experiences their agencies have had with emerging trends, said Det.-Sgt. Jacqueline Chaput.
Chaput is one of 20 Winnipeg Police Service employees who have spent more than a year preparing to host the conference.
"It allows them to discuss and plan for issues that are top of mind for everybody," Chaput said Sunday. "It's pretty important."
The overall theme of this year's gathering is communication, which includes the need for police management to stay on top of social-media trends and issues arising from use by police as an investigative tool or in their private lives.
Delegates will be introduced to the challenges posed by social media Monday morning as Winnipeg police Det.-Sgt. Darren Oleksiuk gives a professional development session on the perils of social media use by police as individuals.
Chaput gave the theoretical example of an officer who puts pictures of himself and family members on a Facebook profile that's left open to view by anyone from the general public. "It's putting me and my family at risk," she said.
Oleksiuk's presentation aims to alert police executives to a wealth of pitfalls that can result if great care and caution aren't used by officers in what information they share online.
The professional-development sessions are closed to the public and media.
Other topics on the agenda are the use of crime-prevention peace bonds as a way of tackling organized crime and justice-system reform.
Winnipeg police will get a chance Monday to trumpet the many successes of its Auxillary Cadet program, which Chaput said has "become the model" for similar initiatives in Canada. Since 2010, the cadets have been used to protect crime scenes, direct traffic and conduct security patrols as part of an effort to reduce workload for sworn officers and improve service to citizens.
The organization will also publicly present recommendations and resolutions on pressing issues such as the future of marijuana enforcement, policing the mentally ill and use of force and accountability by officers by the time the conference wraps up Wednesday.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to highlight the police service and Winnipeg as a city," Chaput said. "We're very proud to have been selected to host this."
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