Using Social Media to Connect with your Community

October 03, 2016

Using Social Media to Connect with your Community

By: Sarah Smith

Police agencies have long understood the value of connecting with their communities in order to build relationships and solve crimes. Social media is just a different method for modern times. Through social media, an agency is simply telling a story about its officers and its activities and is allowing community members to actively listen and respond. Social media is one of the best ways a police agency can communicate with a community because it allows an agency to show photos, videos, press releases, and crime alerts. In other words, social media transforms the outdated model of one-way communication into a two-way conversation.

The 2014 Police Executive Research Forum reported that the two basic purposes for using social media are disseminating and gathering information. Social media platforms can assist in:

  • facilitating criminal investigations
  • monitoring community activities
  • keeping the community informed during a time of crisis
  • sharing news and events with the public
  • receiving information about crimes
  • monitoring crime reports

Not sure how to get started? Look at what other agencies, both near and far, are doing. This is a great way to start and generate ideas. These agencies are also the best ones to ask questions because they have already navigated the challenges of social media and likely had the same questions at one point.

Everyone understands that the quality of a police department, its officers and its command staff is in no way reflected by the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans the department has, or any other unit of social media measurement. With budget cuts and understaffing of departments happening left and right, it’s hardly justifiable to consider social media a top priority. So why are more and more departments turning to the internet community, even designating department members to overlook their social networking accounts? Social media monitoring technologies give real-time information about possible victims, criminals or recent crimes, and it details criminal's location from where the information was posted. Additionally, this newest software allows officers to collect important information and listen in on social media activity from previous criminals and others posting critical data on Facebook posts, Instagram photos or even YouTube videos and comments. The information collected for police officers can be valuable even if the data is positive or negative. The technology can help pinpoint crimes by social media associations. The new technology also helps during crowd control periods, riots, emergency response and intelligence gathering. Law enforcement can use the things you put on social media against you, even if you had known idea they were looking or thought it was incriminating at the time. For the most part, police seem to be your friend at the time, but they are full of it. You need to protect yourself by educating yourself and take the time to read about When Cops Lie. A big take away I want you to understand is that this topic is a very grey area. Exactly how police and prosecutors use social media is not definitively defined. Each police department uses social media differently and all use it to help them with investigations, especially when a witness goes south.

In conclusion, Police departments are increasingly embracing the idea of using social media sites, such as Facebook, for everything from soliciting crime tips to sharing safety-related information and improving community relations. The sites can give law enforcement an additional way to disseminate information quickly and to interact with the public.





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