SFPD Assigns Police Officer to ‘Instagram Beat'

Do you Instagram? Here's a cautionary tale for anyone who might need a reminder not to incriminate themselves online: The San Francisco Police Department has at least one officer for whom Instagram is a major beat.

In reviewing the decision of a case involving evidence found on Instagram ultimately used to win a conviction, Business Insider discovered that Officer Eduard Ochoa had been informally known as the "Instagram officer" in his department for three to four years, routinely using the app in investigations. "His training and experience had taught him 'how to monitor and track individuals through Instagram,'" the court document said.

A spokesperson for Instagram told NBC Bay Area the company was "not aware of any such officers."

SFPD spokesperson Officer Albie Esparza told NBC Bay Area that SFPD does not designate anyone solely for social media. "These are officers/investigators who use social media as an investigative tool as part of their investigations," Esparza said.

Instagram is just one of several social media sites that might be used when looking for answers in a case, according to SFPD.

In the firearms conviction case, police were scanning the Instagram account "40glock" which belonged to the defendant, a minor. Police were able to perform a probation search based on the Instagram photos in which the defendant appeared to possess a firearm.

A passage in the court ruling says: "San Francisco Police Officers Dave Johnson and Eduard Ochoa testified that they were on routine patrol on October 21, 2013. Throughout that day, Officer Ochoa scanned Instagram, a social media website, looking for postings. Officer Ochoa was the 'Instagram officer' in his department and had been so for three or four years. His training and experience had taught him 'how to monitor and track individuals through Instagram.'”

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