Best Ways Police Use Social Media

A recent discussion in the group Law Enforcement 2.0 (LinkedIn) has sparked my interest on the subject of police education and social media. This discussion began addressing resource constraints many PDs face and how it affects their social media campaign. The issue of planning then came up, and how a well thought-out plan would help police not only implement a social media strategy that fits their operations, but also help them counter problems as they arise. In this discussion I wrote: “If law enforcement officials could see exactly how sm can be used, how resources could actually be conserved, and how communities do get involved then they would have a better idea of where sm fits into their operations….Education leads to better planning, and better planning leads to better problem solving.” However, where can this education come from? Who is willing to provide a comprehensive social media guide for police?

Although, blogs like Mike’s social media blog, Cops2point0, or ConnectedCOPS are a good start, there is no one authority leading the way on this educational initiative. So, I thought writing a blog post with some social media strategy examples for police would be a good idea. Seeing how others have effectively implemented social media may help some PDs develop their own strategy, or at least see where to get started. I have outlined four examples of social media strategies used by police, that in my opinion, are some of the most progressive and leading-edge campaigns out there.

I would like to thank Christa M. Miller, author of Cops2point0 for the discussion post on Law Enforcement 2.0.

The Vancouver Police Department

The Vancouver Police Department, in Vancouver British Columbia, does a very a good job with its social media strategy. The department has a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, and a blog called “Behind The Blue Line.” The Department’s Facebook page allows VPD followers (fans) to keep up to date with discussions on the latest local crime issues, view upcoming department events in the community, and serves as an effective forum for recruitment.

Most of the Facebook posts link back to the department’s blog, “Behind The Blue Line.” The blog’s author, Cst. Sandra Glendinning, “hopes to use this blog to share with others what it is like to be a police officer in Vancouver, what it is like to work for the VPD, and how ‘the job’ has changed her view on many things.” If nothing else, the blog helps bring the VPD closer to the community it serves by developing a relationship between blog readers and Cst. Glendinning. To disseminate information through video and audio clips the VPD has chosen a YouTube channel. They post a variety of training, recruitment, and “in the media” videos, as well as informative safety clips for the public.

The VPD does not use Twitter as of yet, and there is no podcast delivered from its website. However, its social media strategy is ahead of many other PDs around. “In all, these social media tools have resulted in dramatic success for the Vancouver Police Department. ‘Our applications to date have effectively doubled’ ” notes Inspector Tom McCluskie, the Officer in Charge of the VPD Recruiting Unit. (http://www.icontext.com/services/web/web20.php )

Source: LinkedIn group, Law Enforcement 2.0 - discussion topic: Best ways police/emergency services are using social media. Post by: Mike Waraich.

Boca Raton Police Department.

The Boca Raton Police Department has taken one step further than any other department I have seen, as it has implemented a fully branded crime-prevention strategy. The VIPER project is a community policing program launched by the BRPD to fight crime and provide a highly interactive platform to engage with its public. VIPER (Visibility, Intelligence, Partnerships, Education, Resources) is a well rounded plan to help BPRD meet its community policing goals, and social media is only one facet of this plan. What the PD uses its social media tools for comes directly from the mission of the VIPER strategy. In the case of the VIPER program, the BRPD has chosen to use social media for the “Education” aspect. In addition to crime reports and traffic updates, the department uses Twitter to relay crime-prevention tips, safety advice, and other educational information. Facebook is used in a similar way, but as more of a two-way channel for discussing and sharing crime info between the public and its PD. The department also uses Nixle to provide immediate information via text or e-mail during an emergency situation, and Chief Dan Alexander has his own Twitter Account and blog, as well.

This is a great example of how a social media strategy needs to be implemented. It is not as simple as setting up a Facebook account, or just tweeting crime updates, it needs to be carefully planned and developed. You need to have an overriding mission with specific goals in order to use social media effectively in your crime-prevention efforts, and the BRPD’s VIPER project is exactly that!

Bellevue, Nebraska Police Department.

The Bellevue, Nebraska PD does a great job at SM. They use Twitter in a way I haven’t seen other PD’s use, which is that several officers’ tweets using their real names and then they’re retweeted into the official PD stream which is posted on the homepage. Followers can just follow the PD and/or individual officers. They use Nixel for emergency alerts. The department has a Facebook page and the K9 Unit has a separate Facebook page. Both are fairly active with discussions and photo galleries. The Community Policing Unit has a blog for the use of Neighborhood Watch members.

All the tools “talk to” each other. the blog post are automatically tweets. Nixle alerts get automatically tweeted. Twitter feed on the homepage and etc. Additionally, their website is full of quality information about all their units and awards the officers have won. It’s truly a progressively-minded PD. They’ve written a social media policy and strongly encourage their officers to get involved with all department SM initiatives.

Source: Linkedin group, Law Enforcement 2.0 - discussion topic: Best ways police/emergency services are using social media. Post by: Lauri Stevens.

Saanich Police Department.

The Saanich Police Department is the first of its kind in Canada, launching Canada’s first police podcast. A Podcast is an audio or video file shared between internet users - authors of a podcast and the subscribers who view them. The Saanich Police department delivers a range of podcasts for its subscribers, from quick updates regarding important recent issues, to crime prevention and safety tips, to an unsolved crimes podcast to keep cold cases in the eye of the public. “Victoria’s Saanich Police are targeting the iPod generation, becoming Canada’s first podcasting police, and among the first in the world to use online multimedia to keep in touch with the community” http://tinyurl.com/ldpuff.

Twitter, Facebook and Nixle are great for text based messages, but what if you need to share audio and video with a large network of followers? Podcasting is the answer. Subscribers automatically receive new audio and video on any internet compatible device as soon as the podcast is released. Unlike YouTube, a Podcast Station is delivered straight from your site so users do not have to leave your webpage to get information.

“What motivated us was an understanding that podcasting is the fastest growing form of communication in the history of communication, and we wanted to be a part of that.” Said John Price, the department’s public information officer. He also added, “When we do regular media releases, I send them out to an email list and sometimes make individual calls to all my media contacts. But only about 30% of what I send out actually gets covered. With the podcast, if I have something important say, I can place one phone call and speak directly to all my media contacts and our community at the same time and it will always be available on the website.”

Saanich police have pioneered the way police departments communicate with their constituents by analyzing what its community wants and then providing it in manner they prefer. The department’s efforts are a great example of how social media tools can be used for the benefit of police (getting more than 30% of news stories covered) and the public they have sworn to serve (instant updates, advice, helpful hints etc.. on any internet compatible device).

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