You can't control everything that is written on the Web about your department, but you can influence one very important source: Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia with millions of articles on almost any topic written and maintained by, well, anyone. For many departments, particularly larger ones, their Wikipedia entry is among the top Google search results after the agency’s official Web site and Facebook page.
Is there an entry for your department? Have you ever thought to look? If your agency has an entry, what does it say, and is it accurate? Who created it, and what were their motives?
So what, you say, who cares? We have a Web site, after all, and it's authoritative and top notch. Sure, people will go there eventually, but often folks head to Wikipedia first to get an overview on a topic before delving deeper. Wading through an agency’s Web site navigation to find information can be tedious; Wikipedia is an easy and convenient resource.
A quick review of police department Wiki entries
yielded a range of results. Some entries were thorough, seemingly accurate, and up-to-date. Others clearly were not. Headings like Misconduct, Controversies, and Litigation were dead giveaways. Additionally, a Wiki entry doesn’t have to be solely about the department. There can be entries about individuals (like the chief or fallen officers) or high profile incidents involving a department.
New entries can be made and existing entries can be edited easily. A Wikipedia account is not required but is recommended to ensure the privacy of your IP address. The site offers an ample explanation of the account creation process
and guidance on editing content.
Whether or not it makes sense for your agency to have an entry on Wikipedia or while away hours curating your department’s presence there is a decision for you and your department based on your social media plan. (But note there was no Wiki entry for the Sanford, Florida, Police Department until just a few months ago…)
I decided creating a Wiki entry for Discover Policing
, the IACP’s police career exploration initiative, was a stretch, even for me despite my dedication to promoting it. On the other hand, the IACP already has an entry
. We’ve no idea who created it, but it could stand to be updated. Now, I guess we better start practicing what we preach…