Community policing, or community-oriented policing, is a strategy of policing that focuses on police building ties and working closely with members of the communities – Wikipedia.
Social media was just starting up when I left police work. Background investigators were beginning to check out potential applicants Facebook and MySpace pages for any unsavory posts and/or pictures. Stupid posts could disqualify people. The PD had not yet embraced the medium for its own use and image.
Recently, I came across an article about the Dallas Police Department and how they’re using Facebook as a community-policing arm. They have sworn officers and civilians who represent them on twitter, they use Pinterest to help reunite people with stolen items, and they are experimenting with live streaming press conferences on U-Tube. (Social Media by Lauri Stevens, Law Officer Magazine April 2014 PG. 14).
Another article points out that 92% of US law enforcement agencies use Facebook, but not so much other platforms. (http://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/why-police-love-pinterest/31049.article). This same article came to the conclusion, “Social media proficiency among cops is needed to keep law enforcement on equal footing with law breakers.”
I have to agree. When I was in uniform, working a beat in a black and white, community policing was a goal, a tool to encourage citizen participation and help in keeping communities safe. We wanted to over come fear and distrust of police in the neighborhoods we patrolled. Why not expand the ideal to online communities? Social media is an arm of the community and it can be a positive contact for police. I pulled up my departments Facebook page and saw information about positive ways for the public to interact with the department, information to help people avoid scams, and a lot of other good stuff. (https://www.facebook.com/LongBeachPD.CA)
To be proactive, police not only need to keep up with trends, they need to be ahead of the curve. Establishing a positive police presence in all areas of social media and using the platforms as a tool to increase awareness, participation, and help people stay safe seems like a great idea.