As we discovered when putting together our Definitive Guide to Social Media Engagement for Law Enforcement, agencies across the nation are increasingly turning to social media to help increase the transparency of their agency and build a better rapport with their communities. Why? The connectivity of social media offers law enforcement agencies unprecedented direct access to openly communicate with and engage masses of citizens like never before. Yet despite social media providing an open venue for discussion that can involve/engage the community, we’re seeing some agencies struggling to use such platforms–often treating social media simply as another means to broadcast static information, rather than to respond to and engage the public. How then should a police department go about using social media to improving community rapport and transparency (you ask)?
Earlier this year St. Louis PD Chief offered a clue when he spoke on the afternoon radio show Hancock and Kelly, “[Citizens] have a right to know, and we have a responsibility to tell them about what we’re doing, what’s working, and what’s not working.” Since his agency became active on social media in 2011, the St. Louis PD has been using Facebook, Twitter, and a Chief’s blog to both inform the community and also engage the community, openly addressing the public’s crime /safety problems/concerns through dialogue.
Humanizing the Agency-“What we’re doing”
The PD uses Facebook and Twitter to inform the community about the usual–breaking news, crime alerts, agency updates , arrests, crime prevention tips–but also stories that share the agency’s perspective from an angle you may not often see on other media. On Facebook, the PD shares stories and events that detail agency operations but also reveal the dedication and heroism of officers on and off the job; for example, a post exhibiting the PD recruits’ recent visit to a children’s charity hospital.
Dialogue/Responding to Public Concerns “Whats Working and What’s Not”
[In addition to sharing information about the agency], the St. Louis PD makes an additional effort to address and explain crime/public safety problems and how the PD is handling them on a strategic and tactical level. This is accomplished largely through PD Chief Sam Dotson’s ‘Chief’s Blog”, where he personally responds to concerns expressed by the public as well as public safety issues, major crimes and other issues. For example, the blog entry below informs a concerned public of a crime spike in a neighborhood and what the PD is doing to fix it. The blog allows readers to provide feedback, in the way of comments, that contributes to the overall discussion between agency and community.
Sharing is Good, But Dialogue is Better
Sharing information may be a start to improving community relations but its not enough without the accompanying dialogue. [For instance, St. Louis's blog fosters overall community discussion yet they could converse with more individuals by responding to more posts on Facebook and Twitter.] Because of social media’s capacity for open conversation, public comments and posts will and do happen and agencies have only to gain by addressing crime problems, public concerns, inquiries and frustrations head-on.
To learn more on how to leverage social media to improve the transparency of your agency or boost community engagement, download our Definitive Guide to Social Media Engagement for Law Enforcement.
Let us know what you think! Do you have a success story in boosting agency transparency? Tips for fellow agencies? Let us know! Use the comments section below to share your insights and best practices.