Law enforcement agencies are digging deep into the social media accounts of applicants, requesting that candidates sign waivers allowing investigators access to their Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter and other personal spaces.
Some agencies are demanding that applicants provide private passwords, Internet pseudonyms, text messages and e-mail logs as part of an expanding vetting process for public safety jobs.
More than a third of police agencies review applicants' social media activity during background checks, according to the first report on agencies' social media use by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the largest group of police executives. The report out last month surveyed 728 agencies.
"As more and more people join these networks, their activities on these sites become an intrinsic part of any background check we do," said Laurel, Md., Police Chief David Crawford.
Police chiefs are concerned that defense lawyers could use police officers' online posts to undermine their credibility, USA Today said. One Middletown, N.J., candidate was disqualified after his social media site showed him posing with scantily clad women, Police Chief Robert Oches said. One Malden, Mass., recruit's text messages showed a history of suicide threats, Police Chief Jim Holland said.
"As more and more people join these networks, their activities on these sites become an intrinsic part of any background check we do," David Crawford, police chief in Laurel, Md., told USA Today. "If you post something on Facebook, it should be something you wouldn't mind seeing in the [newspaper]."