Traffic Problems? Get the Slow Down Cat!

Slow Down CatI know what you are thinking.  What in the world is he talking about?  Every community has its share of motorists disobeying traffic laws.  Speeding, running stop signs and disregarding traffic control devices seem to be the norm.  In Georgia, new police chiefs are required to attend New Police Chief School.  While attending the class, one of our instructors, a seasoned chief, told us that 50% of citizens will think we do too much traffic enforcement and 50% will think we don’t do enough.  I can now testify that the statement he made is true!

As a result, every police chief is constantly trying to find better ways to make the roads safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.  We use targeted enforcement but when we leave, motorists soon return to their bad habits.  We use radar signs but after awhile, they seem to loose their effectiveness.  We educate our community, but it just doesn’t seem to make a difference.

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Social Media CAN Make a Difference

SM LightbulbI have often talked and spoken about the benefits of law enforcement using social media.  I think most of us who use it, recognize what a powerful tool social media can be.  Law enforcement uses social media for many reasons.  We use it to check the backgrounds on our recruits; for investigations; to educate our citizens; to provide information; for homeland security purposes; to market our departments and dozens of other reasons.

We in law enforcement have used social media recently as a counter balance for all of the negativity directed toward us in the media and through social media.  We post information about all of the positive accomplishments of our staff and provide great examples of our engagement with our communities.  Are we making a difference?  Are our citizens actually getting the message?

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Reflections About 9/11

911People on the streetPeople on the street

911People on the streetPeople on the street

As I woke up on September 11, 2015, I couldn’t help but think back 14 years ago to that fateful day none of us will soon forget.  I remember it like yesterday as I am sure most of you do.  At that time, I was working at the Marietta Police Department and we were in a Command Staff meeting.  Once the first plane hit, the meeting ended and all of us were glued to the television for the next several hours in disbelief. 

Policing changed forever that day.

The image that I remember most is the firefighters and police officers running toward the danger, climbing the stairs and doing everything they could to save as many people as possible.  In the end, many of them sacrificed their lives in service to others.  In total, 343 firefighters and 60 police officers died that day.

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Policing Turned Upside Down

Upside Down Police Car PIn light of the recent discourse about police use of force across the country, one of the biggest fears that I have is that one of the officers I am privileged to work with will hesitate to use force when it should be used and that failure to use force will result in the injury or death of the officer or another person.  I am sure other Police Chiefs across the country share a similar concern.

Recently, a disgusting photo surfaced on social media which showed a Detective with the Birmingham, Alabama Police Department knocked out on the pavement after having been pistol whipped by a suspect after a traffic stop.  What made the situation even worse, if it could be worse, was that these photos were posted on social media mocking the officer.  I couldn’t help but think about this officer’s family and how those photos affected them, especially since they saw the photos before the department had time to contact them about the incident.  

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Wearing Body Worn Cameras Should be Mandatory

Body cameraIn general, law enforcement agencies have resisted reforms even when those reforms have been proven to be effective in saving lives, providing better service or improving inefficiencies.  Resisted might be too strong of a word.  We have been slow to adopt changes even though these changes are for the better. 

As an example, only recently has most agencies adopted a mandatory seat belt policy for officers.  Even today, some departments do not require their officers to wear a seat belt even though it has been proven that wearing a seat belt saves lives; even though most departments work to educate the public about this life saving device; even though all states have a mandatory seat belt law.

Similarly, body armor is a lifesaver for police officers, yet many departments do not provide this equipment for their officers or have a mandatory wear policy.  A recent survey suggested that over 90% of police departments now require officers to wear body armor compared to 59% in 2009, which is a big improvement.

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Transparency: A Must Have for Law Enforcement

In years past, many police departments operated in almost complete secrecy.  The community knew very little about what the department was doing except in the most extreme cases involving terrible tragedies.  The culture of law enforcement perpetuated this belief that citizens were better off, and so were police departments, if citizens were kept in the dark.  As times changed and the thought process of law enforcement leaders evolved, we began to see the value of community involvement and partnerships.  The birth of community oriented policing and all of the off shoots of that movement opened up communication with citizens like never before.  Law enforcement held community meetings to talk about crime, disseminated information via email lists and was more open to sharing information than ever before.  Today, thanks to social media, information sharing and transparency have become synonymous.  This transparency is truly law enforcement’s best friend.

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The #LESM Conference

LESM Conference LogoThe online #LESM Conference is less than six days away.  Have you or your staff signed up for it yet?  If not, let me tell you why you should.

The use of social media by law enforcement has never been more important than it is today.  At a time when the relationship between many communities and law enforcement is strained, social media can be used as a bridge builder, a force multiplier and a digital expansion of an agencies community policing efforts.  Social media can be a true difference maker!

The #LESM Conference provides a great line-up of social media subject matter experts providing a wide range of important topics of benefit to any agency using social media or considering using social media. 

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Use Twitter for Breaking News

I have talked about law enforcement using Twitter for critical events and breaking news on several blog posts and during several presentations I have made over the last year.  Twitter is a great platform to push information out because people typically gravitate towards Twitter when something big happens in their community.  Heck, our world is so small today.  It really doesn’t matter where something happens geographically.  People from across the globe will immediately search Twitter for the appropriate hashtag so they can follow the event.

I recently spoke at the International Association of Chiefs of Police PIO Section Mid-Year Conference in Arlington, Texas.  The conference had many topical presentations of interest to PIO’s across the country.  Several PIO’s and police officers presented case studies about incidents they had experienced in their jurisdiction and their response to and management of the media.

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#DallasPDShooting – Communicating in a Crisis Using #LESM

At 12:30am on Saturday in Dallas, Texas, the sound of gunfire shattered the quiet night as a gunman opened fire on the Dallas Police Department Headquarters.  Although a surprising act, it is not unheard of as gunmen have attacked police officers at their departments across the country on several occasions.  Check out this video from an attack on police officers with the Detroit Police Department in 2011.

Fortunately, no officers with the Dallas Police Department were injured.  Of course that wasn’t because the suspect didn’t try to kill them.  After all the suspect arrived in an armored van with gun ports and was heavily armed with explosive devices and firearms.  The entire event lasted for over 12 hours and ended at 12:50pm with an announcement that the suspect was dead.

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The Watchful Eye of Social Media

The proliferation of social media has resulted in a complete transformation in the way many police departments communicate with their communities.  Large and small departments across the country have embraced the use of social media as a way to build community trust and demonstrate transparency.  As much as social media has benefited law enforcement, there has also been a downside.

Members of the public are armed with smartphones and are prolific users of social media on a daily basis.  They are driving, walking and interacting with police officers on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, some police officers do things occasionally that are less than professional.  When that happens, there is a good chance that someone is there to record it for posterity.  Usually, the indiscretion shows up on social media.

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