Recently, I have been noticing an increase in those who present social media and internet safety, and who are not, and have never been involved in law enforcement, rushing to mention that they are “endorsed”, “present” or “work with” law enforcement on their curriculum vitae and their public advertisements.
As a retired law enforcement professional, I get it. Associating yourself with law enforcement builds trust with clients, and their natural instinct to give more credit to one’s program, especially when it comes to an online/offline safety presentation. I can share with you, however, that just because someone is an active or retired law enforcement professional, does not make them a subject-matter expert. A good example; in my career I was never a financial/fraud investigator, so you will never hear me speak to that specific topic publicly, and I would always direct those seeking this kind of information to someone who does. I have heard some in our industry, who have no law enforcement or legal background, share things about how police conduct online investigations that are not true and quote criminal law that is not accurate or supported by case law. This can often lead to negative legal consequences down the road to those who listen to these presenters.
On the topic of “police endorsement”, most police departments in Canada are prohibited by policy to endorse a private company or person. A good example of this, while I was working with the Victoria Police Department, I had authorization that allowed me to have off-duty employment, but my department could not endorse me or my private company. Some presenters will provide letters from police departments as proof that they are endorsed by that law enforcement agency. Upon closer inspection, however, a non-commissioned officer usually signs the letter. Often these letters will usually have good things to say about the presenter, which is well and good, BUT there is only one person who can endorse, and that is the Chief or their designate, and this is a very rare occurrence in Canada. These letters are more of an endorsement from an individual officer, and often not the law enforcement agency as a whole. For provincial and federal law enforcement agencies, often they will have a “recognized” list of companies that they will recommend to those looking for this type of specific training. These lists, however, usually have a “non-endorsement” disclaimer attached.
On the topic of “presenting to law enforcement”, again presenting does not equal endorsement. Just because you present to a small group at the Department of Fisheries, does not mean you are endorsed by that Ministry; there are those in our industry however, that believe it does. While on he job, I often traveled internationally to present at law enforcement only conferences and individual law enforcement agencies. My peers and the courts considered me an “expert” in my field of study and practice, but did I ever say I was endorsed by law enforcement, not once; most law enforcement experts don’t. If the presenter has a curriculum vitae that proves they have presented to a large number of law enforcement agencies, it would be fair to say that they are recognized by law enforcement as a respected subject matter expert. Those who have presented to under a dozen law enforcement agencies, not so much in my professional opinion.
On the topic of “works with law enforcement” on investigations , Unless the presenter is a current police officer, special constable, a civilian employee of the department or recognized court expert, with appropriate security clearances and disclosure agreements in place, they will not have access to any part of the investigation. In fact, here in British Columbia, in order for a civilian to legally conduct an online investigation of a third party, you need to be licensed to do so. So when you see “works with law enforcement” on a resume, do your due diligence. Now can these same presenters instruct law enforcement on how to conduct an online investigation, absolutely…. but to do so without some form of enforcement or legal background would be a challenge.
I follow my industry closely here in Canada, and I know many of the players, but obviously not all of them. There are a handful of presenters that would pass a “due diligence test”, specific to being a law enforcement recognized civilian subject matter expert on the topic of “social media and internet safety, and/or who works closely with law enforcement. Some of these subject matter experts include: Kathy Macdonald, Alisa Taylor, Safer Schools Together, Jesse Miller and of course myself.
The old phrase “buyer beware” is very pertinent to this topic. When considering a Internet safety presenter who says they are “endorsed”, “present” or “works with” law enforcement, or in their presentation speak to law enforcement investigational practices and Canadian law specific to social media/online crime (with no enforcement or legal background), make sure you do your due diligence before signing the contract!
Digital Food For Thought
The White Hatter