SPECIAL REPORT: How social media impacts law enforcement

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The way law enforcement agencies conduct their investigations continues to evolve with every case.

Over the last decade, the use of social networks has been a resourceful tool for helping police solve crimes and inform the public.

However, there are times when social media can lead police on a path of false information.

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said social media is like a double-edged sword.

"Sometimes it's our best friend and helps us to solve something," Mancuso said. "Sometimes it's our worst enemy."

Mancuso said when there's credible information it's a great tool to use, but he acknowledged it can be difficult to cypher through rumors and chatter.

"When we do get inaccurate information, or sometimes just false information, it costs taxpayers money because we're looking for something that isn't there." Mancuso said.

Mancuso said there are certain situations where it comes in handy.

"Sometimes during investigations we can go back and look at someones posts and see what their mindset was and it may contradict what they told us." Mancuso said.

It also helps law enforcement agencies get the word out quickly about wanted criminals or missing children.

However, in some cases, social media can lead police on a wild goose chase.

Back in January, the sheriff's office investigated a field in a starks as rumors spread on social media regarding a body being buried there.

"I mean in this instance we almost had to go on TV," Mancuso said. " I mean they were saying we had already dug up five bodies from this area and then people start coming to look at the scene and their calling and bombarding us with what's going on when we're just trying to run a lead down."

Mancuso said the sheriff's office will continue to adapt as technology advances.

"It's not going anywhere," Mancuso said. "In many ways makes us a more efficient police agency, if you take the bad and the good and you weigh them, I think it's helped us more than it's hurt us.

"So we're going to embrace it the best we can and we're going to move with the times with it and invest in it because it's not going anywhere."

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