This session at the IACP Conference was one that I was really looking forward to. As a chief, I am all about engaging in activity that adds value to the organization. rather than wasting the time of my staff. A large audience was in attendance. Lynn Hightower
, the Communications Director and PIO for the Boise, Idaho, Police Department
, was the moderator.
Chief Jeff Lavey of the Meridian, Idaho, Police Department
was the first panelist up. Chief Lavey quickly made a point of stating social media is not a fad. Most of our officers are using social media and many citizens are talking about our departments on social media. If your department uses social media, you have the ability to control the message. Chief Lavey offered three main reasons to use social media: public awareness, public relations, and criminal investigations & crime prevention.
Chief Lavey acknowledged several potential pitfalls and challenges. These include scare department resources, posts on social media channel are instant and can’t be retrieved, unfriendly fans can post on your site, you sometimes receive vulgar or inappropriate messages, and it is a challenge to monitor your social media channels day and night. Chief Lavey also cautioned against forgetting about the rest of your community that doesn’t use social media.
Sarah Boyd, Public Relations Specialist with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department
, was the next panelist. Sarah briefed the audience on the Kansas City PD’s social media sites which include a chief’s blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In addition, the Kansas City Police Department is pioneering the use of Pinterest
for law enforcement. They primarily began using Pinterest to reach people who never considered interacting with the department. Eighty percent of the people using Pinterest are women.
Sarah also talked about her department’s use of Twitter. They have done a number of Tweet-Alongs which have been very successful. A Tweet-Along is similar to a ride-along. However, it is also different. Instead of riding with an officer during his or her shift, which of course would be limited to one person, all citizens can follow an officer as he or she tweets during the shift. Sarah recommended another staff member ride with the officer and do all of the tweeting so the officer doesn’t have to worry about it. She has done this on several occasions. In addition, Sarah recommends using a hashtag for the Tweet-Along. She also recommends posting photos when possible and answering questions during the shift.
The last panelist was Sergeant Tim Burrows
with the Toronto Police Service
. Tim is very passionate about law enforcement’s use of social media. Tim is recognized as a social media expert. He always shares valuable insights in any of his presentations. This presentation was no exception. Tim made a point that today’s law enforcement agencies can’t afford to not be engaged. When a department engages their community, acknowledges mistakes and says they are sorry when they make a mistake, the status of the department in the community will rise and the value of the department will increase. Tim warned the audience that if they ignore social media they are basically ignoring their community.
Tim was also quick to say social media was not the answer. He described social media as a tool for law enforcement to use. Social media is a communication tool law enforcement can use to build trust.
The three panelists provided great insight and encouragement to the audience who attended this session.