As a result of George Floyd's senseless killing, countless individuals took to the streets to protest. Coinciding with the protests, a number of police whistleblowers utilized social media to speak out about the transgressions and brutality that they had witnessed firsthand. For these individuals, social media provides a space to voice their concerns with law enforcement in America and is a place to tell their stories and critique the police. Moreover, social media empowers whistleblowers by allowing anonymity while affording a safe space for effective community building. This article is a case study involving seven whistleblowers interviewed by the author. Social media has become the primary communication tool they use to expose malfeasance and corruption in policing. The pervasive culture of law enforcement condemns any kind of vocal critique of policing, so social media functions in strong juxtaposition to the silencing of complaints, placing it in direct opposition to the thin blue line and the blue wall of silence. This article highlights the Lamplighter Project and Twitter as resources that assist police whistleblowers who speak out against wrongdoings perpetrated by other members of law enforcement.
Police Whistleblowers, the Lamplighter Project, and Twitter: Exposing Misconduct and Corruption in American Law Enforcement
Rhon Teruelle is assistant professor of mass communication and social media at Purdue University Northwest. He earned his PhD from the ISchool at the University of Toronto. His work is interdisciplinary and has three streams: social justice, social media, and social movements. His current research project directly addresses racism and racial justice through his study of police whistleblowers and their social media use to fight injustice. He is also interested in exploring the implications of particular new technologies. As a teacher, he is a critical communication, media, and cultural studies generalist. He remains devoted to punk rock music and its fundamental ideologies related to change for the betterment of all.
Rhon Teruelle; Police Whistleblowers, the Lamplighter Project, and Twitter: Exposing Misconduct and Corruption in American Law Enforcement. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2023; 122 (4): 729–745. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-10779469
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