The Social Media Beat

Re-Cap #IACP2012 – Social Media: Challenges and Opportunities

Re-Cap #IACP2012 – Social Media: Challenges and Opportunities

By: Tim Burrows
Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tim Burrows

Tim Burrows is a recently retired sergeant with 25 years of law enforcement experience.

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Have you ever been to a conference and left disappointed because you just didn’t find the information you were hoping for? Have you ever felt empty because you took time to attend a session based on the description of it and it just didn’t deliver? I have and it is upsetting especially considering the cost you sometimes have to cover.

This year the International Association of Chiefs of Police 119th Conference in San Diego was nothing like I just described. In fact, it was the polar opposite! I found myself wishing that it were longer because there were so many great sessions happening at the same time. It didn’t matter which information track was happening… you just couldn’t go wrong with your choices.

Executives, IT personnel, public information officers, chiefs… there was something for everyone and if you left feeling empty, it’s only because you didn’t really pay attention.

One of the packed sessions I sat in on was, “Social Media: Challenges and Opportunities.” This was a fantastic panel presentation that represented small, medium, and large agency issues by bringing together Chief Billy Grogan of Dunwoody, Georgia, Chief Susan Manheimer of San Mateo, California, and Lieutenant Colonel Robert Northern of the Virginia State Police.

Each agency talked about their presence on social media, the platforms they use, and how they use those platforms.  We all know that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Nixle are solid components of any social media program; that’s all a given. So what I was looking for was not what they use, but how they use them, and more importantly, as the session title indicated, the challenges they each face.

Chief Grogan is one of the trailblazers of social media for police and he is personally active both from a community standpoint and also as one of my fellow bloggers for the IACP Social Media Beat. Chief Grogan truly “gets it.” From reaching out to his community, marketing the department, building relationships with his citizens, and ensuring that there is a two-way communication continuum, the Chief understands the power of social media as a time multiplier and virtual beat forum. The Dunwoody Police recognize their biggest challenge is negative comments from the community, but instead of knee jerk reactions or ignoring concerns, the Chief has ensured that they plan ahead for the negative and have the right personnel in place to answer criticism professionally and timely. That is a great move!

Lieutenant Colonel Northern’s agency does not have an enviable task. The VA State Police don’t have the luxury of speaking with an individual community or a small population. Their presence has to be suitable for an entire state and all that comes with it. Small communities that they police, interstate patrols, rural and city infrastructures, are all part of their make up and so their presence is broader and less specific, but nonetheless, they are doing a great job of speaking with their state. One thing that they have latched onto that so many other agencies are just plain missing the boat on is their defined and potential audiences. Potential hires, their own personnel, and those who have an interest in what the police are doing. They use their content to help ‘control’ the facts of an issue that involve their world of public safety and employee recognition. As Northern said, “The real side of the story.” They don’t just do something for the sake of doing it. They are strategic in their content and the timing of their content. That is a great move!

Chief Susan Manheimer, in my opinion, stole the show! Sorry men, but this one goes to the lady. Being the third presenter on a 3 person panel is never fun. Your fellow panel members have taken most of your content so you usually bore the audience of flash through. Not this time. Chief Manheimer delivered!

Interestingly for me, San Mateo Police have adopted a different approach to their engagement and their entrance to social. I will tell you, it is not one I agree with, but when we are talking challenges, they are meeting them in a very measured and practical way that has to be respected.

San Mateo hasn’t fully embraced two-way communication in some of their presence, but they also represent an incredibly tech savvy community which means there is a great potential for negative reverberations that they can’t handle with their limited resources. I get that. Don’t agree, but the fact they have recognized that speaks volumes to how smart they are approaching their presence. One of the other great moves they are making is Beta Testing their presence before jumping feet first. This isn’t four or five years ago when many jumped right into the deep end. There is a lot more knowledge and understanding of the platforms now so agencies like San Mateo can take more time and really get to know their platform, their audience, and their best methods for engaging.  A real bonus is the smarts of their program. SCALE.  With their Beta perspective and a sound strategy they know what they want from each post. The content is vital, the community wants to know what their police are doing and the police know what they want their community to do.  That is a great tri-fecta for solid success.

All three agencies have the same challenges. Personnel, time, platform choice, relevance. In fact, every agency will face those same four challenges in social media.  How you address them is critical:
•    Scale your program to your resources
•    Consider your audience first
•    Don’t try to be 24/7 if you can’t be 24/7
•    Have a strategy in place before you start
•    Monitor your presence

Finally, the fourth member of the panel was the IACP’s own Nancy Kolb who moderated the session and also introduced the 2012 Social Media Survey Results. This is gold for anyone who is looking for justification or the potential that social media can bring to their agency. I encourage you to click on the link above to see the results and share it with your team.
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    About This Blog

    So you have found, or perhaps stumbled upon, The Social Media Beat, the blog for the IACP Center for Social Media Web site. The Social Media Beat is about three things: social media, law enforcement, and perspective. Here you will find a fresh outlook on the issues that are affecting law enforcement agencies and their personnel when it comes to social media.

    Social media is taking the world by storm. Social networks, blogs, photo and video sharing sites, and virtual communities are changing the way people live, work, and play. These tools present unique opportunities as well as challenges to the law enforcement community.  The Social Media Beat brings together a team of bloggers who will speak directly to you about hot topics and current issues.

    Bloggers include IACP staff and practitioners in the field who can provide a unique front-line perspective. Our team cares about social media and wants to ensure that law enforcement across the country are knowledgeable and well-equipped to incorporate this technology.

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    About the Authors

    Dionne Waugh

    Dionne Waugh is the Digital Communications Manager for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, which is the largest, full-service sheriff’s office in the state of Colorado. Prior to that, she spent more than six years creating and leading the Richmond, Virginia, Police Department’s social media efforts, which led to international acclaim and recognition.

    She has spoken about law enforcement and social media at more than a dozen conferences across the country in addition to four IACP annual conferences. Waugh is a former newspaper reporter who wrote about crime, police, and the court system for several years. That experience and an ingrained curiosity for what makes people tick has fueled her desire to improve communication between people. Follow Dionne on Twitter @JeffCoSheriffCo.

    IACP Center for Social Media

    IACP's Center for Social Media serves as a clearinghouse of information and no-cost resources to help law enforcement personnel to develop or enhance their agency's use of social media and integrate Web 2.0 tools into agency operations. The Center is funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Leon Robertson

    Officer Leon Robertson is the Social Media Coordinator for the Hampton Police Division. Robertson has developed internationally recognized public safety messages, including the Jingle Bells “Holiday Safety Remix” in December 2013. He has extensive experience in graphic design, video & audio production, and managing various social media platforms. You can follow Officer Robertson’s efforts with the Hampton Police Division on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

    Tracy Phillips

    Tracy is a Senior Project Specialist with the IACP. She is responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of the Web site and coordinating the site's social networking plan. In addition, Ms. Phillips provides writing, editorial, and technical assistance on a variety of association projects and activities, including police management studies, job analyses, executives searches, federal grants, and various research projects and proposals. She has more than 10 years of experience in state and local government, including work as a management analyst, performance auditor, and crime analyst. Ms. Phillips holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Georgia and a bachelor's from Clemson University.

    Want to hear more from Tracy Phillips? Follow her and the Discover Policing team on TwitterFacebook, and on the Inside Discover Policing blog. You can also network with other police recruitment professionals in the Law Enforcement Recruitment LinkedIn group.

    Zach Perron

    Lieutenant Zach Perron is the public affairs manager for the Palo Alto (CA) Police Department. Zach was a 2014 visiting fellow at the IACP in the Center for Social Media. He serves on the steering committee for the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group (BALESMG), and is a member of the US. Department of Homeland Security's Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG). He holds a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Stanford University and is now pursuing a graduate education at the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California.  You can follow him on Twitter: @zpPAPD.

    Dave Norris

    Sergeant Dave Norris is a 21 year veteran of the City of San Mateo Police Department. He has worked in a number of positions including Juvenile Detective, Field Training Officer, Narcotics Detective, and Patrol Supervisor. Dave is currently assigned to Community and Media Relations and oversees day-to-day functions that involve the relationship between the police, the community, and the media. Dave is dedicated to the increase of community engagement through the use of social media. Under his management, San Mateo PD's direct subscribers to community alerts and public safety messaging has grown from several hundred to over 22,000.

    Chris Hsiung

    Captain Chris Hsiung commands the Field Operations Division at the Mountain View Police Department in California. Through the department Community Action and Information Unit (CAIU), he manages strategy, community engagement, and growth through the police department social media channels. Chris has been serving the Mountain View community for over 19 years and has held a variety of assignments within MVPD. These include detective assignments in Property Crimes, Person Crimes, and High Tech Crimes as well as collateral assignments on SWAT and the Field Evidence Team. He also serves on the planning committee for the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group (BALESMG). You can follow him on Twitter @chMtnViewPD.

    Lynn Hightower

    Lynn is the Communications Director and Public Information Officer for the Boise Police Department and has served in that role since October, 2003. Lynn also serves at the PIO for the Boise Fire Department. Lynn authors and manages the social media outreach for Boise Police and often acts as media spokesperson. She advises officers from patrol to command staff on media and public communications skills. Lynn joined the Boise Police Department after 17 years as a television reporter, producer, anchor, and news director. Lynn regularly instructs new officers at the Boise Police Academy and has given media and public communications presentations to dozens of federal, state, and local emergency responder agencies. Follow Lynn and Boise Police on Twitter @BoisePD.

    Billy Grogan

    Billy Grogan is the Chief of Police for the Dunwoody Police Department in Georgia. Chief Grogan was hired on December 17, 2008, after serving 28 years with the Marietta, Georgia, Police Department, to start a brand new department. On April 1, 2009, the Dunwoody Police Department began operations with 40 sworn officers and eight civilians providing police services to the 47,000+ residents of the City of Dunwoody. Chief Grogan embraced the use of social media from day one of operations. The Dunwoody Police Department began using Twitter the first day and has added Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Vine to their arsenal since then as effective tools to market their department and engage their community. Chief Grogan has written about the benefits of law enforcements use of social media, participated in several social media focus groups and lectured at the IACP, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, COPS Conference, and many other venues. Follow Chief Grogan on Twitter @ChiefGrogan and the Dunwoody Police Department @DunwoodyPolice.

    Mark Economou

    Mark Economou is the Public Information Officer for the Boca Raton Police Department in Boca Raton, Florida. His media and public relations background spans nearly 20 years. Spending nearly 15 years in radio and television news, Economou held many positions from assignment editor, reporter, anchor, and executive editor. After that, he served as the Director of Media Relations for Cote & D'Ambrosio, a Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising firm in Wickford, RI. He then served as head of Media Relations for Citizens Bank of Rhode Island, the 9th largest bank in the United States. Follow Mark on Twitter @BocaPolice.

    Frank Domizio

    Corporal Frank Domizio has been with the Philadelphia Police Department since 1997. He is currently assigned to the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensics Lab as a Forensic Examiner. Previously he was assigned to the Department's Office of Media Relations and Public Affairs where he was the Social and Digital Media Manager. Frank has spoke at several industry conferences and major universities on the topics of social media and content strategy.

    Tim Burrows

    Tim Burrows was a sworn police officer for 25 years with experience in front line operations, primary response, traffic, detective operations, and supervision. He has training in a broad spectrum of policing responsibilities including IMS, Emergency Management, computer assisted technology investigations, leadership, community policing, and crisis communications. Tim left policing but has remained involved through consulting with law enforcement on the advancement of communications and social media. Tim runs #CopChat on Wednesday nights at 9pm ET, to allow police and community members to connect and break down barriers. To learn more about him you can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook or click here to contact him

    Guest Blogger

    The Social Media Beat periodically features guest bloggers who share their perspective on the topic of social media and law enforcement. These individuals are law enforcement professionals; sworn and civilian personnel from agencies of all types and sizes throughout the world. If you are interested in guest blogging, please send your request to All bloggers must be affiliated with a law enforcement agency or educational institution. We cannot accept blog entries from vendors or others working in a for-profit capacity.

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