Social Media and Law Enforcement – Why it’s a must in your toolbox
Guest Post by Judy Pal
November 5, 2019
Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason. The biggest mistake law enforcement makes when using this tool is employing it as a one-way bullhorn to disseminate information, rather than for what it is really intended – community-building. While some law enforcement leaders still are not fully supportive of digital mediums, social media is legitimate and, aside from direct contact, the best way to engage with your community.
However, it’s a tool that has a number of caveats. The first is the lack of control – something every cop loves … and thus hates about social media. What platforms should we use? How do we monitor it and how often do we have to post? Let’s face it, social media is labor and time intensive. Many agencies are using “PIT Crews” – or Public Information Teams to both monitor and post to social media. The team needs to have goals and objectives that match the CEO’s overarching goals for the agency. Don’t participate in every silly trend just ‘because’. It has to be part of an overall strategy.
My favorite quote regarding social media comes from a former PIO in Toronto, Tim Burrows, who said, “Don’t worry about going viral, worry about being awesome.” What goes viral is not often what your agency posts officially, but good deeds your officers take that are ‘caught’ by the public.
Social media allows us to build community awareness, engage with our communities the way they want to engage, promote the good work our employees do on a daily basis and hold traditional media accountable for what they report, in addition to being THE platform to communicate during crisis. With all that in one tool, why wouldn’t you be participating fully in a social media program for your department?