In the past 18 months I’ve been so eager to “prove” what social media can do for law enforcement that I’ve pushed agencies and their commanders to be more transparent, more engaged with the public, more a part of the online world.
I still believe they should be. But I’m also coming to embrace temperance. The cultural shifts required for police to “socialize” online are as huge as they were 20 years ago, when community policing concepts first demanded them.
And just as it took time, baby steps really, for many agencies to embrace community policing… the same will be true for online community policing. How so? I could not have answered that until I found this the other day:
Here, the Community Roundtable explains how social presence isn’t created overnight. It takes time to plan, build, and establish. Its blog post explains the concept of “community maturity” in greater detail, along with some ways the organization uses the model.
You’ll notice that the model was drawn with a focus on internal community. The police department moving towards acceptance of social strategy will start, as most organizations, at the familiarity of “Hierarchy” – then as it grows more comfortable with its own agency’s community, will move along the continuum to “Network.”
This is true externally as well, however. Because police naturally relate to their publics as a hierarchy, the online application of community policing – requiring more trust, communication and interaction – will take time to grow.
The agency may move along the continuum at about the same time externally as internally, or they may be slightly ahead internally – this will make sense if commanders use the agency as a “proving ground” before bringing strategies and tactics to bear in the public.
And while a true “Network” may never form between police and civilians because of the necessary boundaries between police and public, it can and should form among police and other emergency response agencies.
But at no point should commanders ever feel that their efforts are not enough, or that they should do something they aren’t yet ready for – whether it’s following people back on Twitter, or re-branding their entire community policing strategy.
Community must be worked and built toward, so that incidents on a small or large scale can be dealt with without the added burden of interactive communications that don’t work.