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Monitoring the News and Social Media with Your Smart Phone – Mobile Crisis Communications

Monitoring the News and Social Media with Your Smart Phone – Mobile Crisis Communications

By: Guest Blogger
Date: Friday, October 28, 2016

Guest Blogger

The Social Media Beat periodically features guest bloggers who share their perspective on the topic of social media and law enforcement.

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Guest blogger: Commander Mike Parker, Los Angeles County, California, Sheriff’s Department

Speed and mobility are needed to anticipate and respond quickly and effectively to critical incidents and breaking news at all hours. Free methods are readily available to monitor open sources of information with your smart phone, so you can stay aware and be able to act on the move.

Government sources are usually considered the most accurate, but the bureaucratic approval process isn’t usually built for speed. Meanwhile, the news media and public sharing of information via social media are fast on the draw, but misfire as well as hit their targets especially during the first news of a crisis. Thus, a variety of methods to quickly collect, but then cross-reference to verify, makes for an efficient, active, mobile listener.

The time to establish and learn your monitoring and listening system is now, before the crisis begins. Here are several free tools to make a priority using your mobile phone:

Google Alerts: Set up alerts for news and updates based on keywords to be emailed to you at various points of the day. Use variations on your name, agency, leadership, and locations and topics of interest. 

Twitter: Follow law enforcement, fire agencies, public works, government, news media, scanner fans, weather alerts, schools, influencers and prolific news sharers. Twitter is a must for Public Information Officers as it is the favorite system of the news media. You can set Twitter to notify you each time selected accounts Tweet. Tweets can also be set up to send you text messages. 

Nixle: Text and email notifications and news releases from law enforcement, fire and government agencies. Register at for email and text, or text the zip codes that interest you to 888777. Over 2 million subscribers get information from over 7,500 agencies. (U.S. only)

Facebook: Facebook “Likes” are well known, but using your Facebook Account Settings for push notifications from your favorite accounts are better. The popularity of Facebook makes it a must to watch, but Twitter is faster to scan for news. 

Special group alerts: Internal agency groups like search & rescue teams text alerts and external groups like campus special alerts. Some police and government agencies use messaging systems that are unique to their city/county.

Colleagues, friends, family: Texts, emails, or calls from mom, a retired sergeant, friends, or fellow Public Information Officers are part of the unsung team of people who tip you off to what is on the news when you aren’t looking. Be sure to reciprocate.

News media apps: Not all news media apps are equal. Choose ones that focus well on the topics or geographic areas that you are looking for.

Legacy news media: Television, radio, and print media news stories that first get posted online, can be seen on your phone. Legacy news media amplifies the message to the public in a powerful way.

Weather alerts: Whether alerts come to your phone (or TV) without request, or you sign up for them, weather alerts are a breeze to receive. There is a National Weather Service alerts list at and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) app

Agency internal notifications: Most agencies have an internal email, phone call, or text notification system. Its focus should be on Timely, Quality, Quantity information, and Images (TQQI).

Law enforcement publications and associations: Many use email or email newsletters like Everbridge to alert subscribers to recent significant policing news. 

Public safety radio frequencies:
Phone apps used by the news media and scanner fans to listen to police radio communications, can be used by you too. (Unless encrypted).

Telephone-based emergency notification systems: Allows authorities to notify large groups of residents in the event of an emergency. You must sign up with your local city or county service provider.

Video/Social Media: Youtube, Instagram, Periscope, Facebook, and others provide videos that can and do quickly go viral. They are more difficult to monitor, but links are often shared via Twitter.

Many more: Google Plus+, Nextdoor, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Reddit, and Whatsapp are just some of the systems that can keep you informed. Yet, there are only so many hours in the day, so use what is the most efficient for your area.

Social media management dashboards: The Hootsuite dashboard will work for free on your smart phone. Meanwhile, TweetDeck and Twitterfall are effective on a laptop, but you will need to use other lesser known alternatives on your phone. 

The origins of information range from reliable to ridiculous so credible sources and vetting are key to credibility before you share. Being a good listener is great, but also sharing this information the right way with the right people helps to make you a good communicator. 

Commander Mike Parker is a 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County, California, Sheriff’s Department (LASD). In 2012, he received the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “Community Preparedness Heroes Award," and in 2013 received the White House "Champions of Change" Award. He now serves as Commander of the Personnel and Training Command of the LASD. @mpLASD 

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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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