The indiscriminate use of social media to display harrowing images of fatalities is posing serious challenges to the Royal Barbados Police Force (RPBF) as it pertains to the delicate task of notifying relatives of victims.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Lila Strickland said the rise in the use of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram sometimes means the families of accident and crime victims find out before lawmen have an opportunity to properly inform them.
“Perhaps for us one of the more challenging concerns in the area of death notification in recent times is the use of social media. While much can be gained from its use, it can create the unkind and unprofessional response in the notification process because it is in real time and it has scope and capacity.
“For instance, as we have seen here in Barbados in recent times, social media is used to capture and share violent sites and scenes depicting the death of a loved one before official investigations are even initiated,” Strickland told a gathering of law enforcement personnel from across the region at the opening of a workshop in death notification at Accra Beach Resort on Thursday.
The initiative, which is hosted by Impact Justice and funded by the Government of Canada, sought to equip officers with requisite skills to deal with the emotional impact of task on the victim’s family as well as those charged with the responsibility.
The senior police officer said the people who post these images have no regard for how family members will feel.
“These sites and scenes do reach the family members and close associates before an official notification and as such create different reactions by the secondary victims. We have realized that this approach is becoming a new norm by some members of the public, who may have no respect for the chain of notification for the secondary victims.”
In addition, he said, this practice circumvents the investigation process as sensitive information is often disseminated before the police have a chance to properly analyze it.
Strickland urged the attendees to pay close attention to this development, as it could provide invaluable lessons in shaping policy decisions for the future.