Tag Archives: Facebook

Political pressure? Refer to your values

pressureIt’s been said that social media “amplifies” whatever an organization’s values are. If a company is all about pushy sales, so will be its social efforts. If it seeks long-term customer loyalty based on relationships, its social efforts will reflect that too.

Likewise among police departments. An agency that respects its citizens enough to communicate with them and make them partners in crime-solving will show that online. An agency that has no respect for citizens… well, it might have Twitter and Facebook pages, but it either won’t use them regularly, or won’t use them appropriately.

That’s why it’s so important that the Huntington Beach (Calif.) Police Department resisted city council member Devin Dwyer’s plan to use the department’s Facebook page to “shame” drivers arrested for DWI. An Associated Press article noted:

Police spokesman Lt. Russell Reinhart said that since launching its Facebook page in November, officers have found it to be a valuable way of getting information to the public and soliciting tips on tough cases.

A couple of DUI suspect mug shots have been posted, but they were from egregious cases where police thought the public could be at immediate risk from the suspect. Reinhart fears Facebook fans could be turned off by the routine public shaming of all repeat DUI offenders.

This is not just a gut sense on his part, but rather one based on page analytics: “Our social media presence is just a few months old and we have had a steady growth of fans and followers,” he told me. “The administrative side of Facebook shows the number of views and impressions is growing steadily as well.  The feedback is all positive from our community.  Using those tools as a measurement, we are doing the right thing for the right reason.”

Different definitions of “public safety”

This debate shows how critical it is for goals and strategy to come before the tactics. If you jump on social media without knowing what you want your public to take away from it – and then, what you want them to do with the information – it will be harder to articulate why a politician’s demand “feels wrong,” and easier to cave to that demand.

This is especially true when the demand is grounded in a different perspective on public safety. As it turned out in a council debate, the issues on both sides are complex. Among the council members’ reasons for opposition:

  • Posting pictures, even of habitual offenders, could shame families as well as offenders and increase the risk for bullying or cyberbullying of kids who have tried to hide the family secret.
  • Huntington Beach, having marketed itself as a fun tourist destination, should not hurt that image by appearing to be a “Footloose” kind of town.
  • Conversely, the additional publicity could hurt the city’s image by showing it has a DUI problem.

On the other hand, Dwyer himself pointed out that he had received many letters of support from families with alcoholics, who told him that shaming could be another tool in a family’s – and a community’s – intervention toolbox. He also felt that the shaming could be part of the agency’s own arsenal, together with existing saturation patrols, training for restaurant/bar owners and servers, and other prevention methods.

Social presence starts with values

HBPD was able to disagree because it had already decided on how to use its Facebook page. “We never disagreed on the public safety issue of those individuals on the road who are DUI,” Reinhart says. However, “Shaming is a form of punishment and law enforcement’s role in society is not to hand out punishment.” Posting all DUIs, or even all habitual offenders, could dilute the page’s overall focus and distract fans from paying attention to public safety as a whole.

Indeed, the Associated Press article went on to note other agencies that have tried – and then rescinded – similar policies. Meanwhile, the council elected (largely, Reinhart says, to end the media “hype” around the issue) to allow the department to continue to use its discretion with its Facebook postings.

Reinhart says of this experience, “For other agencies using or considering social media my recommendation would be to anticipate political pressures on how it should be used and be prepared to support and defend your position. This is no different than the debate on how we dedicate and use all the resources we have in law enforcement.”

At the same time, as Reinhart says, “Social media gives law enforcement the opportunity to help the community we police know the realities, both strengths and weaknesses, of our role in society.” This means that police departments must tread carefully when communicating those realities. People can misconstrue intent via social channels just as traditional media have in the past.

Again, it comes back to values. Transmit those through social and traditional media, and people (including local politicians) will know what you and your agency stand for – for better or worse.

How are you building agency values into your social media work?

Creative Commons License photo credit: smemon87

“Hands On” Demo for Social Media

Social media is not just the latest "shiny object" for law enforcement

Social media is not just the latest "shiny object" for law enforcement

Regular readers might remember Sgt. Tom Le Veque from my interview with him in August, which detailed how he carefully researched his community before setting up a social media presence on behalf of the Arcadia (CA) Police Officers’ Association.

Recently, Sgt. Le Veque attended a 140 Characters Conference in Los Angeles. There, three police chiefs talked about Twitter, social media, and communication. Sgt. Le Veque wrote up his takeaways in a good overview of how law enforcement agencies are using social media as 2009 draws to a close:

A communication evolution

Several vendors set up shop in one of our department training rooms last week, peddling the newest models of body armor, AirSoft weapons, and assorted tactical gear. Live demonstrations followed in the range and the hands-on experience was well worth the time invested to attend.

I have learned over the years that those of us in law enforcement like to see and touch new products and technology. You only need to look at the attendance numbers that regional trade show events like CopsWest and Trexpo produce to see that our profession is in love with the latest and greatest when it comes to tools of the trade.

Up to date equipment, use of modern technology, continual training and development of personnel, and constant evaluation of policy and procedure are a few examples of positive attributes of a progressive and quality law enforcement agency.

But in the society and culture that surround us today, that is not enough. It is said that change is slow and difficult. The days of strict “paramilitary” police work have passed. Society has asked law enforcement to evolve into a business that includes community partnerships, transparency, and accountability, while at the same time, upholding the law and “fighting” crime.

We have not been asked to step away from our role as law enforcement officers, but rather to improve the way we do business. Answering these challenges and changes for law enforcement is not necessarily something found in a booth at the next trade show, but rather a change in philosophy and simply modifying the “way“ that we do business.

Law enforcement managers should look to their own personnel for one easy answer to help in this “change.” At a recent #140 Character (Twitter) conference, Chief John Stacey of the Bellevue Police Department in Nebraska discussed BPD’s use of social media. Chief Stacey described how a young officer “lit up” during a recent briefing where the Chief mentioned that he would be out of town for a Twitter conference. The young officer was surprised that the Chief knew what Twitter was all about.

That officer and the Chief had never really engaged in conversation before that moment, but because of that common ground have developed a new and improved rapport. This small example serves as both a tool for internal personnel development and investment in an agency, but moreover breaches the tip of a much greater tool for reaching out to your community.

Chief Stacey is among a growing group of law enforcement administrators who have embraced the use of social media as a tool to engage, communicate, and interact with the folks that their police agencies serve. The Los Angeles Police Department, the Sacramento Police Department, and the Whittier Police Department in California, each host a blog, and actively interact with their communities.

Some police agencies, like Bellevue, have taken the use of social media further.  Bellevue PD, like the Lakeland Police Department in Florida, has both a Twitter and a Facebook page. BPD even encourages their individual police officers to send “tweets” about activity while at work.

The Oxnard Police Department in California has asked a lead officer from each beat or sector within the city to send out Twitter updates specific to their service area. OPD also produces web video providing crime info, press release information, and other information to promote their agency.

YouTube is also being used by law enforcement to deliver assorted messages and embedded video. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in Nevada and the Milwaukee Police Department in Wisconsin are two agencies utilizing YouTube. Media releases, crime prevention tips, suspect wanted bulletins, missing persons, are all examples of potential use of video releases from a police agency.

The Boca Raton Police Department in Florida and Chief Dan Alexander have taken the concept of mixing social media and Law Enforcement even further. BRPD has a project called VIPER that packages the best of their use of social media use in a one stop shop. VIPER allows the Boca Raton community to interact with BRPD by use of video, Twitter, Facebook, crime mapping, news, email alerts, and more. BRPD provides text messages and email information through a service known as Nixle. Nixle is available at many agencies and local government agencies across the country.

Think about your own personnel, your family, and friends. How many of them are carrying a web enabled phone with them everywhere they go? Technology has put cameras, news reporting, and instant delivery of information in the hands of virtually every person on the street.

Take advantage of this wave and go “hands on” with social media. Explore the benefits and learn about the positive impact your agency can have by interacting, listening, and being involved with your community by using social media as a tool for law enforcement.

Image: Abby_Lanes via Flickr

Just how high does the standard need to be?

stupidThinking about the Bozeman officer who resigned over his Facebook status updates made me think: What, exactly, do we civilians expect from our police officers?

Because I’ve heard comments along the same lines from dozens of other cops. Civilians, too. Take this one from one of my own Facebook friends:

“….I suffer fools not at all. Stupidity makes me so sad. Moreover, I simply cannot believe the number of people moving through life who are totally clueless.”

Or the comments on this news article.

I see this kind of thing every time the news posts something about people who shouldn’t be allowed to drive, breed, or leave the house. In fact, I’d wager, it’s a rare person who doesn’t at least think this way (or cross the line into what many would consider racist, classist, or other offensive territory).

So why do we expect different from cops?

It’s worth thinking about if you are contemplating officer participation in social media. Valeria Maltoni writes, “Many companies have written solid policies and guides to social media participation… [but as] more employees participate, there will be a need for more conversations about what staying in character means.”

Some agencies have forbidden officers from identifying themselves as police officers altogether. Not only does this protect the agency, it also protects the officer who may end up doing online undercover work.

And that’s a start, but I can’t help thinking it’s not fair to the good, responsible officers, for whom police work is an integral part of who they are. Not to mention, at least in a place like Facebook, there will always be some “friends” who know what s/he does for a living.

So why isn’t it OK for police to be as honest as the rest of us in their opinions of humanity? Quick and easy answer, straight from the Bozeman lawsuit itself: because of their authority. Anyone who carries around weapons in the course of their daily work automatically has “one up” on us. If they view us as stupid, what’s to stop them from using those weapons to “put us in our place”?

The same thing, in most cases, that stops us from using whatever weapons are at hand—kitchen knives, baseball bats, words—to put others in place whom we feel are being “stupid.” Conscience, experience. In fact, cops are even less likely to use weapons than we are, when they’re well trained. It’s when emotion and stress overwhelm training that they start to act more like—well, us, at our worst.

Yet we continue to demand better, even after things like the Stanford Prison Experiment and Stanley Milgram’s electric shock experiments prove that very few humans—fewer than we’d like to think—are capable of taking the moral high ground, that not only are some of us not better than others; frequently, we’re worse than our beliefs about ourselves.

Ego, not authority

So I think the main concern with police being allowed to voice their personal opinions is less about their authority and more about our ego. As humans, we go along in life mainly wanting to be liked. Deep down, we want to think we’re doing the right thing, that we’re smart for making the choices we made, and that we’ll be forgiven for making the wrong choices.

So when someone openly calls us stupid? What nerve. And how much worse when it’s someone we want to respect. Most of us want respect back from those we look up to. Knowing we don’t have it threatens our sense of who we are.

Pop psychology, right? But zoom back. I’m not just talking about a one-to-one reaction of citizen to police officer. It works the other way, too—when police departments join social networking sites, hoping to establish relationships with their publics.

Just as individuals tend to prefer to remain ignorant about what others really think of us, organizations find themselves rudely awakened by customers tweeting or blogging about a bad customer-service experience.

True—police departments are used to this, have been for decades. But because social media demands we listen before engaging, the new territory for police is 1) opening themselves to more criticism than usual and 2) facing the need to do something about it.

And really, that’s what causes us as individuals the ego-discomfort with criticism, too. We all want to think we’re getting it right. Seeing that we might not be scares us—because it means we will need to change our ways. Who wants to do that? When you’ve been doing something the same way for years, where would you even start to change?

To protect ourselves, we lash out. It can’t be us, we think; it must be the person doing the judging. There’s no way I could have been speeding; I’m a careful driver. That cop didn’t calibrate his radar this morning.

Likewise, regardless of how accustomed police are to criticism, we hear: These people have no idea what goes into what we do. We work hard trying to keep them safe. Can’t please everyone.

We are them, they are us

Folks, these are the reasons WHY we are on social media. Those of us who have jumped aboard have experienced first-hand how it can bridge gaps. Most of us understand that social media is about bringing together people with widely divergent experiences, communicating differences with an eye toward fixing the problems they pose.

Yes, reducing human interaction to words on a screen enables criminals to hide more easily, but the criminal mind will always take advantage of well-purposed tools. For the rest of us, social media equalizes. Reducing interaction to words on a screen also reduces the likelihood of our making unfair assumptions about each other—and enables us to correct those assumptions made more easily.

So while guidelines should indeed determine whether and how much officers participate in social media, self-identifying as officers, administrators should bear in mind that if you worry too much about controlling the message, you risk turning the public away altogether.

Set guidelines. Reprimand officers who blog or tweet or whatever outside them. Apologize to the public for the problem. Remind them that we’re all just learning this space and how to coexist in it. Promise that you’ll do better next time—and, because the medium is the equalizer, ask the same of them. Agree to forgive each other when you fall short of that, as we all do.

Isn’t that what we all want?

Image: Kevin Marks via Flickr

Case study: How Boca Raton PD responds to community needs

Visibility, Intelligence, Partnerships, Education, and Resources make up the Boca Police VIPER brand.

Visibility, Intelligence, Partnerships, Education, and Resources make up the Boca Police VIPER brand.

Last week I talked about the importance of “listening” to your community, including taking into account a variety of factors about the community itself. It won’t be the last I discuss this topic, but I wanted to take some time to examine what Boca Raton PD is doing with all that data.

Chief Dan Alexander, who blogs at BocaChiefBlog.com and tweets as @bocachief, talked with me about the Boca VIPER program as a branded crime prevention strategy. Granted, BRPD hired a public relations firm to help with branding… but even this itself was a response to realizing that community needs were bigger than the agency could accomplish on its own. As Alexander put it, “We needed to market, but cops don’t market very well.”

What were those needs? For starters, “listening” doesn’t just mean watching what is being said about you. From a law enforcement standpoint, it also means crime and calls-for-service analysis.

BRPD found from its number-crunching that the bulk of its crimes were being committed by people from outside the community. In addition, says Alexander, while community support for its police was high, and a number of programs had already been put in place to address problems, none of it was part of a cohesive strategy.

So Kaye Communications, a local PR firm, helped with conceptualizing and developing the new brand.

Branding crime prevention: Boca VIPER

The five elements of the Boca VIPER brand form the comprehensive crime-prevention strategy the department had been moving toward all along. As Alexander explains, these are “independent elements that overlap”:

  • Visibility allows people to see the police and connect with their brand.
  • Intelligence shows the importance of information, and how the community is impacted by “outside forces.”
  • Partnerships with local businesses and organizations help improve the agency’s reach.
  • Education via traditional and Internet-based media involve the public in crime prevention.
  • Resources including officer training, facility improvement, and operational tactics keep police constantly improving.

Where social media fits

As public relations professionals constantly remind each other, marketers, salespeople, and others, social media is not a strategy unto itself. Rather, it needs to be integrated into a broader communications strategy that includes all the different roles in an organization

At BRPD, this is exactly the case. “Social media personalizes us, helps us make a connection to get information to the people who need it,” says Alexander. “It’s logical to realize how social media tools relate to a unique constituency that uses them.”

The main point of social media, which is part of VIPER’s “Education” component, is to drive traffic back to the main VIPER Web pages. The agency has Twitter and Facebook pages (but not MySpace anymore because, as Alexander says, the strategy is constantly being tweaked depending on what works).

The VIPER site itself is being revamped, so that it will now include BRPD’s Twitter feed. The advantage here, says Alexander, is for all citizens—not just media—to be able to see “police blotter”-type information as it happens.

The department is also considering a video feed, which would allow the agency’s PIO to take questions twice a week, while mapping—complete with e-mail alerts—will continue to help citizens look at criminal activity in their own neighborhoods.

Web presences, says Alexander, do not have to be mutually exclusive, and in fact should not be. “These are all different ways to inform, promote transparency,” he says. “We don’t rely too heavily on any one tool because there’s ebb and flow. Instead, we use the tools to draw people to the content.”

Getting the cops involved

There’s listening to the community. Then there’s doing something with that data—creating the tools that allow police to respond to what they’re hearing. And then there’s choosing the people to help promote the overall brand.

Alexander’s blog and Twitter presences go along with the department’s PIO work, but he would like BRPD cops themselves to join in eventually. Officers bring a “unique street-level perspective” to incidents, which is why Alexander believes there is no reason why they can’t use social media together with traditional chains of command.

“It won’t be fast,” he warns, “and information will be filtered—not to keep something away, but to protect everyone involved including officers.” (Arguably, the agency’s openness in advance of a major incident will help critics understand its responsibility to keep some messages filtered.)

Still, getting to that point will be challenging. As Alexander wrote for ConnectedCops.net, five barriers often keep law enforcement from realizing social media’s full benefits. “Social media is wide open, and the idea of getting up close with people doesn’t jive well with who we are as police officers,” he says.

He hopes to start getting officers involved by asking those most comfortable with the technology to lead the way. Even so, the effort will be tricky. “We have to figure out how to control yet also decentralize our message,” he says. “For officers who do connect on a personal level with the public, the trick is helping them learn how to do it officially.”

And so, while his officers aren’t actively resisting the idea, he notes that they seem to be taking a “wait and see” attitude. Thus listening will become as important to them individually as it will to the agency as a whole.

Feedback for Boca VIPER

Indeed, as with any good public relations strategy, listening is still an important part of implementation. Alexander has blogged about feedback he gets, and the department is planning focus groups next month. Surveys helped the crime prevention unit determine what the VIPER site should focus on. For instance, identity theft is set apart on its main page because in Boca Raton, it’s a major concern.

Moreover, says Alexander, “This is a living, breathing process. Our strategy is a function of our connection with a number of different sources.” He likens it, in fact, to Boca Raton’s population itself. “Officially we’re a community of 85,000, but that number can swell to 300,000 during the week,” he says. “You can’t define our population. Likewise, social media allows us not to be isolated within our borders.”

Learning from Boca police

  • Listen first. Gather data from multiple sources: residents, business owners, visitors, your agency’s own activity stats.
  • Respond. Go where the people are, both online and off, to communicate with them.
  • Take it slow. Start with areas that have the most need, as well as the areas you’re most comfortable with.
  • Gauge. How are your constituents responding to your efforts?
  • Adjust. You don’t have to get it right the first time.
  • Broaden. Let feedback and experience guide you toward expanding your reach.
  • Repeat.

How can you integrate social media not just into your communications plan, but also your overall mission as a law enforcement agency?

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Guest post: The social media officer

Coralville PD community relations officer Meleah Droll tweets as @CoralvillePD; can a social media officer position be far behind?

Coralville PD community relations officer Meleah Droll tweets as @CoralvillePD; can a social media officer position be far behind?

When Mike Vallez launched his social media blog a few weeks ago, I was struck by a comment he made in one of his first posts: “I would venture to guess that in the future you will have a social media police officer or many social media police officers that will be involved in “the conversation'”….

I asked him to elaborate on that comment: Should they do ALL of the social media for a PD, or should they simply monitor all the channels and direct outreach efforts? What role would they play during critical incidents? What experience should they have? How would they interact and cooperate with other officers doing public outreach?

Mike’s answers, reprinted with permission below, provide much food for thought:

As time goes on and social media continues to become more prevalent in people’s lives, law enforcement is going to have to deal with the Goliath known as social media.

I firmly believe that if there are not already full-time social media police officers; that there will be dedicated social media police officers, communications officers, etc. in the very near future. Is it outlandish to consider positing a police officer on the computer 24/7 to monitor and Tweet or Facebook out information? I don’t think so.

Social media management

As social media changes, so does the management of social media. Police departments are going to have to include social media into their communications policies or standard operating procedures (SOP). Communication for law enforcement agencies usually falls to the Public Information Officer (PIO), but is usually managed by the chief or his executives.

Law enforcement needs to embrace social media and investigate what benefits they can realize. These may include better communication with their customers, cost savings, and gaining respect from the citizens they police through authenticity/honesty.

On the flip side police, departments are going to have to find knowledgeable individuals either inside or outside their departments who have social media experience to implement these policies correctly. If a social media policy is not implemented correctly then it probably won’t be understood by the community or the agency. Hence the agency in question will realize a social media failure and will be hesitant to use this powerful communication tool going forward.

The social media officer’s duties

Most law enforcement agencies will adapt and embrace social media over the next few years as a valid communication tool, out of necessity. You will see social media police officers that monitor the bigger social media websites like Twitter and Facebook.

A few duties these officers may have is to monitor what is being said about their agency (Twitter side search box) so they can respond to possible discrepant information or help a citizen with a problem proactively. These officers can Tweet out or send Facebook messages on a variety of things: traffic accidents, crime prevention, crime patterns, videos of crimes, etc.

Another duty would be to have a blog about their department, covering human issues within the department to reach out for that personal touch with the community. Does this position have to be a sworn law enforcement officer? This could be up for debate. Maybe this position would fall in the PIO’s area and then again maybe not. [Christa notes: some community relations officers fill this role. Cops 2.0 partner Scott White is his agency’s IT manager.]

The social media dispatcher

When people start to report crimes on Twitter and Facebook, which has already happened, I think there is a good argument to have a sworn law enforcement officer tracking this information. The officer would be able to communicate tips, suspect descriptions, etc. to his fellow officers from a trained police officer’s perspective.

[This creates] the argument that Twitter and Facebook communication should fall under the onus of the communications section (dispatchers). Dispatchers are trained how to handle stressful situations, specifically communicating with victims.

But, why not have Twitter and Facebook fall in all of these areas? Use the department’s main Twitter account as the feed and have the different sections monitor this feed. You can have a SOP, which points out what Tweets or Facebook communications will be handled by whom. This is called Social Media dispatching, which is not too much different than regular telecommunication dispatching.

Social media is here for now and growing at an exponential rate. Law enforcement agencies that turn a blind eye to social media will eventually be caught in a firestorm. This will most likely happen when social media could have been used for prevention or warning of real time incidents, but was not and a negative outcome results.

Social media police officers, social media dispatchers, social media community service officers are all going to be on the horizon due to the cultural changes that are occurring in how people communicate using social media.

How might your agency benefit from a dedicated social media officer?

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Case study: Researching community in Arcadia, Calif.

Arcadia police reach their public via unofficial blogSgt. Tom Le Veque has been a believer in social media since he started using it to reach out to the public during contract negotiations. Administration has been a bit slower to adopt, however, so Le Veque went for middle ground: a blog run by the Arcadia Police Officers’ Association.

Sgt. Le Veque’s introduction on our “About You” page led to a more in-depth discussion between us. What he’s doing may be a valuable alternative for agencies that want to “test” social media before they commit to an official presence online, and he has other good insights too.

How the APOA blog started

Le Veque says:

A couple of years ago, we were in the middle of some fairly tense [contract] negotiations. I started following not only the print media, but also constantly querying the topic on the Internet.  I stumbled across a fairly active news/political blog that was in our area and started following items of interest.  That in turn led to looking into police blogs and local departments that were active on the net.  In the Los Angeles area, sad to say, I found little to choose from at the time.

Feeling the need to further our Association’s position publicly, we used letters to the editor, blog entries, commented on news articles (Topix), a billboard, posted a video on YouTube, and launched the APOA website.

When the dust settled I felt that there was a need to promote not only our Association, but also our department in the community.  Feeling that social media was an up and coming outlet, I drafted a proposal for an official APD blog and began to work on helping to improve our presence on our PD website.

The blog idea was shot down [due to the] feeling that there was no need for the department to devote time to the project.  However, a manager commented that the PD had no control on whether or not the POA started a blog… that sparked the idea of the APOA Info Blog.

The takeaways

A couple of things stand out to me about Le Veque’s efforts. First, he started by listening. It makes no sense to join a conversation you know nothing about. Even if you know your side, no one will respond positively if you’re only talking about your side. Real negotiations start with listening, even to the critics.

Then, even after the contract negotiations were settled, Le Veque kept going. Good marketers who are integrating social media into business initiatives realize that there is no such thing as a “campaign” as in advertising; they know the “conversation” is ongoing. Also, even though the department administrators felt they had no need for a blog, Le Veque knew the community had a need.

Going further, I learned that Le Veque had done significant research before starting his blog. For one thing, he notes a wide range of both police blogs and responses to them:

In looking into the ‘police blog’ idea, it seemed that most of the blogs had few to no comments. There were exceptions, but to me they were explainable.  LAPD had many comments, but most seemed to come from within, from their own personnel.  A couple of smaller towns in the Midwest had comments on their PD blogs, but the appearance was that everyone in the area knew each other….

I did find that when a department offered question and answer type entries, like that of Sacramento PD, there seemed to be some genuine interaction between the community and the PD.

Different forms of success

Blog comments, in quantity if not quality, do not define its success. Comments are only one form of feedback; there are other forms of feedback both direct and indirect. As Le Veque says:

Comments on the site have been minimal and after looking at other PD blogs we did not expect an overwhelming amount of traffic.

We have had good feedback and believe that it serves as an excellent form of community outreach and communication. Our feedback has been mainly through word of mouth, a few phone calls, and direct email via our feedback link on the POA website.

More importantly, Le Veque’s continued research involves number-crunching:

We have tracked visitor numbers [via Google Analytics] and are pleased with the results. After the start up the blog, unlike WordPress, the host Blogger did not have a counter for visits.  I was curious as to how many hits the POA blog was getting so I opted for associating the Google Analytics program with the site.

I found it interesting but also somewhat confusing.  The numbers are fairly straightforward, but it seemed that the site is geared for more of a marketing type blog. I know that we have recurring visitors from the community, our politicians and the local media.  Comments to officers in the field, phone calls to the Watch Commander, and even a little feedback from Administration has confirmed that information.

Defining blog success

Keeping an open mind with regard to comments was key, as was Le Veque’s attitude that “if we impact anyone with our information than it is a success.” But there’s more to it than that, he says:

I believe that a great deal of how well the blog will do depends on many, many factors.  Just a few in my opinion are:

  • Population, location and demographics (who and where are you serving)
  • Department buy-in and support
  • Publicity both in local media and the parent organization (city, county, other departments)
  • Credibility
  • Timeliness
  • Is it down to earth or too “official” [Le Veque brings up the point that many blogs are little more than press release pages.]

I don’t know if you can be politically correct when it comes to talking about the who and where.  I think that a police department that serves an average middle class area may have an easier time interacting socially, either on-line or in person, than a department that serves a high income area.  Departments that serve more depressed areas probably depend on how well they interact now and what kind of community partnerships are established.

If the community does not like or trust the cops, they are not going to interact, in a positive way, on-line.  Bottom line is that in any project, you have to overcome the ‘us vs. them’ or the idea that law enforcement

is a ‘necessary evil.’

Le Veque acknowledges that until more smaller police departments in California catch on to social media use, “Our management is likely to remain distant. Officially, the blog is not supported, however, there have been a handful of times that even the boss has asked for a topic to be posted.”

So, just as Le Veque researches the community to meet its needs, he continues to research the agency’s needs, working to help administration warm to the idea, including adding a “just ask” button on the blog page (a la Sacramento PD), starting a Twitter account, and proposing a Facebook page.

Where can you start listening to your community?

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