Posts Tagged ‘law enforcement’


Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Social media engagement is like casting a pebble in a pond: Networks grow in concentric circles. For any organization  looking to build its online presence, the networking and socialization should begin from within, and start at the top.  This is particularly true for organizations that interact with the public as front line service providers.  Police organizations fall into this category.

For a police force exploring social media, whether it is simply a question of populating its Facebook page or jump-starting a Twitter account, the place to begin should always be with its staff, sworn and civilian.

Enlisting your staff to be part of the conversation has a number of advantages. It allows you to tap into their networks and synergize ongoing conversations to help project your brand and amplify your message. It will serve to bolster internal communications and create an organization-wide sense of empowerment and ownership of the new strategy.  It will also help staff internalize and articulate the key organizational values, ethics and goals that make up your corporate brand.

This exercise can be formal or informal. Anything from training workshops to “lunch and learn” sessions will do as long as these provide the time and space to freely discuss the organization’s strategy, its benefits and costs, and everyone’s role in its implementation.   While technical know-how is important, online social engagement is all about the capacity to engage and converse.

Most importantly, these sessions should be opportunities for the organization’s leadership to share and discuss their objectives and vision for the organization and how social media can facilitate achieving these.

An interesting study released today  by Austin-based PulsePoint Group, illustrates the importance of the “C-suite” in fostering organizational buy-in and excellence in social media use and engagement.  Notably, it finds that:

  • Two-thirds of the  organizations  achieving the highest returns reported that their  C-suites are active advocates– that is, they commit to social engagement  as a strategy and they reallocate resources to make it happen.
  • However,  a full 28% of C-suite executives still don’t believe in social  engagement. And the number one reason? The inability to gauge ROI (45%).  For engagement to work, the C-suite has to believe in it and see  measurable returns.

In hierarchical organizations a disconnect from the leadership can cause uncertainty and a fallback to the safety of the status-quo.  And while in the past organizations embraced a tightly controlling spokesperson policy in the name of message discipline, today’s real-time social environment requires investing in engagement and conversations.

Effective social media engagement  requires a more horizontal, less hierarchical, and more trusting approach to external communication.  A critical part of this approach must involve bringing your  leadership into the social fold, and into the conversation–internally and externally.

In addition to helping to maintain message discipline and unity,  internal engagement will allow the organization to leverage its all of its networks, further amplify its message and extend its reach, and most importantly build buy-in.

If a police force wants its members–sworn and civilian–to become brand ambassadors it must empower them not only with the technical tools–from training, to the narrative, to PDAs–but also with the trust and support of their leadership.


Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Jesse Ventura got it right when he said that you can’t legislate morality–nor can you legislate values, culture, or attitudes. But it looks like that is exactly what the City of San Francisco is planning on doing as it considers legislating community policing.  

A story in yesterday’s San Francisco Examiner  says legislation has been introduced that would make community policing part of the City code.  The legislation is the initiative of Supervisor David Campos  who says the police department has to improve its community policing. 

According to the article,  the legislation spells out tactics and strategies to be used by the City’s force to bring it closer to the communities it serves. Among other things, it calls for community training for officers, “two-way communication” through newsletters or other “social network tools” between police stations and the community.

Those tactics make perfect sense. What doesn’t make sense, is that it should take legislation to get the San Francisco PD to integrate them in their operations. 

Community policing is more about police culture, values and attitudes than it is about tactics.  By codifying how the police should interact with San Franciscans Supervisor Campos has highlighted a leadership and culture problem within the force; he has done nothing to fix it.


Saturday, September 18th, 2010

In an earlier post on the potential for mass mobilization of a particular Canadian Facebook campaign, I wrote that it would be a mistake to measure its success solely by the volume of (traditional) media coverage it generated, the amount of money it raised, or the number of boots it put on the ground.

Those are all important elements of social and political engagement, but they form the core of advocacy 1.0; not advocacy 2.0, which should be based on fostering conversations online, and more importantly, around the water cooler.

At the end of the day, I argued, if the ROI of social media advocacy is measured solely on the basis of the old paradigm, then the exercise is bound to fall short of its potential because it will have missed the point.

The same is true of social media and policing.

For police forces in Canada and abroad, tapping the full potential of social media will require a substantive shift from more traditional approaches to law enforcement (and the measuring of outcomes and success) toward a community or problem-based policing model.

In the problem-based policing strategy, individuals and communities are engaged in finding solutions to criminal or public safety issues that affect them. Crowd-sourcing–a popular social media strategy designed to engage communities in developing content or finding solutions to a problem–jumps to mind as the social media extension of this policing strategy.

But for this new model to work, the use of social media must not be driven by a technology-first mentality (the shiny new toy). The real driving force must be an appreciation of the potential social media provides for real-time engagement and dialogue; including with groups and communities that had been out of reach of most traditional police interventions, notably youth at risk.

Looked at from this perspective, it is clear that using social media solely as a one way communication system would miss the point. So too would using social media as a kind of mobile or internet-based crime reporting line. If not integrated within a larger strategy of community engagement and dialogue, that approach remains policing 1.0 dressed up as something else.

Such a social media strategy would not only fail to leverage the full potential of online engagement but, if too focused on enforcement outcomes, could actually subvert efforts at engagement by creating a wedge between the police and various communities.

Online communities are very discerning. They can spot a phoney a mile away. First and foremost, effective social media engagement must be genuine and transparent. Hidden agendas–be they corporate or personal–rarely survive the collective glare of the online community.

Embracing policing 2.0 for most police forces will mean more than expanding their digital or online engagement capacity; more than creating a YouTube channel or Tweeting police reports. It will mean embracing a new way of thinking about how they relate to their community.

By providing police forces and law enforcement agencies with the potential for exciting new strategies, paradigm-change may yet become social media’s greatest contribution to policing.