05 Apr 2013

Law Enforcement and Social Media: If I had a hammer…

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Law Enforcement and Social Media: If I had a hammer… building social media presence

I was talking with a citizen activist about social media use during events such as protests when he made a simple, yet effective, analogy. That is, like any tool, social media can be used for good or bad. Take a hammer for instance, he said “You can use it to kill your neighbor, or to build a house.”

In the early days of law enforcement adoption of social media, all that most police executives heard, or wanted to hear, was the negative. It took two to three years of hard work by law officers of various ranks who saw the potential, to start creating positive outcomes with social media.

Not If, but How

Largely due to those efforts, I believe we’ve turned the corner and it’s no longer about whether or not law enforcement should use social media but rather how. How can police best leverage open source technology to improve policing, engage citizens and prevent and solve crime?

Recently, we proved to the greater law enforcement community, citizens and to ourselves that together we are bigger than CNN or any other traditional media outlet.

The first Global Police Tweet-a-thon on March 22nd reached 11 million people according to BrightPlanet, a deep web search company that tracked the event. This was accomplished by about 230 agencies from 10 countries that registered in advance with the event’s producer; LAwS Communications to participate.

Using the hashtag #poltwt nearly 50,000 tweets in 23 languages were sent. That was enough to get the topic trending on Twitter in nearly every participating country, including the U.S.

Focusing the Power of Social Networking

What critical issues are law enforcement dealing with that aren’t getting appropriate coverage by traditional media? Human trafficking? Identity theft? Line of duty deaths? What is preventing us from doing some simple strategizing and collaborating to address one or more of these issues proactively with social media?

Overall the tweet-a-thon was intended to build awareness of police work, of social media use in law enforcement, and to get cops around the world to talk with each other. We accomplished all three of those goals, but each agency also had its own local goals.

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Market research firm Ipsos Reid of Canada conducted a scan of the tweet contents from a random sample of 200 tweets and came up with important content analysis of the event.

What if we’ve started something even bigger? I believe we have. Some agencies are continuing to use #poltwt in matters of significance beyond their own borders. A full twelve days after the event, here’s an excellent example from the FBI Press Office on April 4th.

Now that we know the potential reach from even a relatively small event and given how many law enforcement agencies there are in the U.S. alone, why not take it further?

We’ll be doing the Tweet-a-thon again. It will grow and maybe even include agencies in Asia and the Middle East at some point. But we can think bigger. Let’s be strategic and let’s make these tools work to their full potential.

chart 2

Let’s get busy. We need to start hammering some nails, we have a house to build.

Did you or your agency participate in the Global Tweet-a-Thon on March 21st? What were your thoughts?

Editor’s Note: Lauri Stevens graciously shared her time on the heels of the first ever Global Police “Virtual Ride Along” to promote the positive use and future of policing networks constructed with the tools of social media. The Badge Guys thank her for the commitment to connecting cops at ConnectedCops.



One Response to “Law Enforcement and Social Media: If I had a hammer…”

  1. Juli says:

    What a rush thinking about all of the possibilities! Great job, Lauri!