No Twitter in Georgia

Oktwitter-793050 (1).  I have to admit the title is misleading.  I am not talking about the State of Georgia.  Instead, I am talking about the Republic of Georgia, formerly part of Russia.  Georgia is the birthplace of Stalin and location of his museum.  Georgia is the country that fired its entire police department to get a fresh start.  I recently traveled to Georgia with my good friend Tim Burrows to conduct media relations and social media for law enforcement training. 

The Republic of Georgia has come a long way since the days of Stalin and since they began rebuilding their police department from scratch.  With the aid of the United States, the police department is now a modern, professional police department operating in a transparent manner serving and protecting their community.  They have begun using social media and currently have approximately 15 different Facebook pages across many of their departments.  However, their use of social media ends there.

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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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Social Media Spectacle

Reporter ShootingThe unthinkable happened recently.  A reporter, a cameraman and an on-air guest were gunned down in Roanoke, Virginia by a disgruntled employee.  Unfortunately, the killing of two people and wounding of another in and of itself is not that remarkable.  What made this incident so shocking was the fact it was the news media that was targeted and it happened on live television. 

In what can only be described as very disturbing, the suspect used a camera, recorded the shooting and uploaded it along with various comments to Twitter and Facebook.  The suspect not only had a desire to kill people, he also wanted to make sure the world would see what he had done.  Fortunately, both Facebook and Twitter closed his account quickly but not before the video was viewed and shared by many.

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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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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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