Change can be difficult for members of any organization. However, change inside police organizations can be even more stressful and difficult for their staffs. Chief Dan Alexander with the Boca Raton Police Department
has said “There are two things police officers don’t like, change and the way things are” which is very true.
Inevitably though, change is a part of any organization, especially police departments. In order to keep up with the changing times, new laws, new enforcement techniques, new technology, and best practices, change must happen. Over the years, police departments have moved from call boxes to radios in cars, from foot beats to patrol cars, from writing reports to typing them, and from traditional policing methods to community policing. The common thread for all of these changes is the resistance encountered inside the departments during the change.
The use of social media by police departments is no different. It represents change. It is important to recognize how this change may affect your organization and how resistant your staff might be to the change. As a result, it is important to educate your staff about the benefits of the department’s use of social media and gain their support.
So what form should this education take? First and foremost should be educating the staff about the benefits of using social media for the community. Social media should be discussed in terms of enhancing the department’s mission and helping to improve the quality of life for the community. In addition, social media could be explained as an extension of the department’s community policing efforts already underway.
The second part of the education process should answer the question about how the use of social media will affect the staff. Who will post on the social media sites for the department? How will the tools be used? Will the department have a policy? How will the use of social media benefit the department? How will the use of social media benefit the staff? The answers to these questions vary from department to department depending on which social media sites the department is using and for what purposes. However, some truths related to the use of social media are universal.
The use of social media by police departments is beneficial for the agency and staff because its use typically provides greater exposure and transparency about what the department is doing which translates into greater support from the community. The use of social media enhances the department’s reputation and provides an outlet to promote the great things being accomplished by the staff.
Although there may be resistance to using social media inside your department, the risk can be mitigated and the number of those opposed may be reduced significantly if the department is educated effectively about the benefits of using social media.