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US: Social Media Improving Police-Resident Relations
Source: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-11-20/news/fl-police-social-media-20111120_1_social-media-twitter-followers-and-facebook-facebook-page
Source Date: Sunday, November 20, 2011
Focus: E-Education
Country: United States
Created: Nov 21, 2011

More than half of law enforcement agencies surveyed for a national study said social media improved relations between authorities and residents.

According to the study, released this month by the International Association of Chiefs of Police Center for Social Media, 53.1 percent of 800 agencies that participated noticed an improvement in resident-police interaction. About 88 percent of agencies surveyed said they use social media.

"The whole purpose of using these social media platforms is to have a conversation with your community," Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said. "We wouldn't effectively be doing our job if we weren't using it."

Through social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, agencies can share crime information or hyperlinks to press releases.

But the biggest advantage, authorities and social media experts said, is the engagement between people and police.

"That's why it's called social media, right?" said Massachusetts-based law enforcement social media strategist Lauri Stevens. Stevens said many agencies still struggle with engagement.
Advertisement"But that's not necessarily to fault them," Stevens said. "It's a process and I think that they have to start small and they have to grow their use of social media."

For Boynton Beach police, it was "slow to start" building a network of Twitter followers and Facebook fans when it joined social media, Slater said, but engagement is a daily activity. As of Nov. 18, the agency had nearly 3,000 followers and more than 2,000 Facebook fans.

Earlier this month, Boynton Beach Police Chief Matt Immler spoke to residents during a live video chat on Ustream.tv. Residents asked Immler questions through Facebook, Twitter and Ustream.tv.

"The engagement that we're getting from our community through social media is phenomenal," Slater said.

With Slater's help, Fort Lauderdale police spokesman Det. Travis Mandell created a Twitter account last month. Mandell said his tweets don't just inform the public; the media can also keep tabs on police.

"We figured it would be a great way for us to reach out to the public," Mandell said. On Nov. 18, Fort Lauderdale police had more than 200 followers on Twitter.

At the Broward Sheriff's Office, external affairs manager Lynne Martzall helps in handling the agency's social media pages. She said her division makes sure to reply to residents' tweets or comments.

In April, the Sheriff's Office was tagged on a tweet that read: "DON'T get arrested in Broward Cty!!! You will NOT be treated well at all, especially if you question that treatment!" The Sheriff's Office responded, "We are sorry to hear you feel you were treated unfairly," followed by the internal affairs phone number.

Boca Raton police spokesman Mark Economou said anyone who posts a question on the agency's Twitter or Facebook page is "most likely going to get an answer very soon."

In June, a man posted on the Boca Raton police Facebook page that several lights were out at Meadows Park. Economou contacted the city about the problem.

The lights were soon fixed.

"The police department is listening," Economou said.
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