Social media plays a central role in the disbursement of news these days, but does it have an effect on the investigation and outcome of criminal activity? Think of how quickly you learned about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut or how much you learned about the Trayvon Martin shooting and subsequent criminal prosecution of George Zimmerman through social media. Traditional news sources like newspapers and radio now also seemingly rely on social media not only to disseminate information, but also as a source of newsworthy stories. How many You Tube videos have you seen of crimes in progress or police reactions to a situation? Does this invasive social media presence have any effect on our criminal justice system? Does the social media push behind certain social issues encourage or force government officials to react differently than they may have twenty years ago before everything was so quickly and widely disseminated?
This recent story about Chris V. Lollie being tased in the St. Paul skyway is a prime example of social media’s impact on the criminal justice system. Mr. Lollie was able to capture parts of his arrest on video and has broadcast it for the world to see. Now the world is watching the St. Paul Police Department to see how it will respond to Mr. Lollie’s allegations. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has already become involved, likely in an effort to stop the negative effects a story like this can have on a city.