Is your law enforcement department getting the most they can out of social media? From Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn and now more specialized platforms, it’s tough to know what channels can help your police force with not only their communication goals but also their investigation process.
According to a 2014 Lexus Nexus study, 8 out of every 10 law enforcement officers use social media in their investigation process which makes sense considering 72% of online adults use social networking sites. Social media can be used to collect evidence, discover criminal activity, obtain probable cause for a search warrant, identify and locate criminals as well as their networks, provide news to the public and much more.
If you are already utilizing social media or are considering its benefits to your public entity, implement a strategy that will manage your risk by using best practices. In a recent case study, “Social Media on the Front Lines,” the Lima Police Department shares their experience using social media and provides the below best practices:
- Develop a Social Media Policy: If you don’t know where to start, model your policy off a partnering jurisdiction’s policy. Then consult a legal team. Once you’ve polished your policy, ensure you distribute this policy not only to the department but also make it public via your website or accessible on a social media page such as Facebook. For examples, visit PoliceOne.
- Remove Comments when Necessary: If you choose to remove comments that violate your policy, ensure you are consistent and fair.
- Respond Quickly and Honestly: Manage all social media platforms to ensure appropriate response time. Be active in responding and following up with followers. Credibility can be tarnished if you do not follow up on something you commit to doing.
- Automate Social Media Archiving: It is important from a legal standpoint to maintain public records when it comes to social media usage. Manually archiving is time consuming and not efficient. Consider using an automated system to archive the material for you.
- Leverage Data: Use data from social media for other operations such as assisting in a case or aiding in court as evidence.
- Obtain Buy-in at All Levels: It is not only important the chief of the department approves of social media use, ensure everyone on the force is on board. Explain why it is a necessity and how they can also positively utilize it.
With any practice, it is important to train all employees who may utilize this activity. Training may include what may be accessed and what information may or may not be shared. Consider providing the ability to share on behalf of the department to one or a few specific individuals such as a media relations employee. If your department has limited staff, consider providing media/public relations training to one or a few officers who will be responsible for sharing on social media platforms.
A Government Technology Case Study – “Social Media on the Front Lines”
LexisNexis – “Social Media Use in Law Enforcement”
If you would like additional information on the topics discussed in this article, please contact us at OBGRRiskControl@onebeacongov.com.
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