Law Enforcement Agencies Around the World Connect via Twitter – #poltwt!!!

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Who would have imagined law enforcement agencies located around the world connecting through social media? Well, that’s what happened this past Friday as 200 law enforcement agencies in 10 countries around the world began tweeting (Ivie, 2013) as part of an experiment in connecting through social media platforms. The start of Friday’s event was a virtual ride-along to portray actual events police officers face every day on the job (Ivie, 2013). As part of the worldwide tweet-a-thon, the hash tag #poltwt began trending around the global on Thursday because of the various time zones partaking in the event (Ivie, 2013). Law enforcement agencies from as far away as New Zealand,

Police Car with Twitter logoWhat is fascinating is law enforcement agencies around the world are turning to social media as a way to connect to the public they protect and serve (Webster & Stevens, 2013). Laurie Stevens, founder of LAwS Communications, says that agencies are moving rapidly toward social media like Twitter and Facebook to solve crimes and connect with the public they serve for newsworthy events (Webster & Stevens, 2013).

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Stevens continues to express the need for law enforcement agencies to communicate with the public their use of social media tools as a way to have real-time conversations with various enforcement agencies (Stevens, 2013). Police can connect with the public on a different level and use social media to their advantage in collecting tips and solving crimes (Lamberty, 2013). Other advantages to connecting via Twitter include real-time updates, traffic advisories, weather updates, and community involvement.

Nine of the 200 agencies participating in the tweet-a-thon are located in the Bay Area Cops Tweet in first gloabl tweet a thon(Northern California). Fremont, San Mateo, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, San Rafeal, Mountain View, Campbell, and Los Gatos are the named Bay Area agencies participating in the Twitter event (Ivie, 2013). It is no surprise that 8 out of the 9 agencies are located in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns and the departments Public Information Officer worked together on the event and began sending tweets at 3 p.m. on Friday (Ivie, 2013). Additionally, Fremont police tweeted about a car accident, a drunken man in the park, and a burglary all by 10 a.m. on the first day of the event (Ivie, 2013).

Twitter and FacebookMost important to law enforcement agencies participating in the event was the message they are sending to the public: Law enforcement agencies are up on social media and we’re sharing information instantly (Webster & Stevens, 2013).

 

On a personal note, on February 27th two Santa Cruz Police Officers were slain in the line Butch Bakerof duty. Santa Cruz has been my home since 1988. I was working in town when the shooting occurred. I came out of an appointment and was shocked to see the police presence from various agencies in town and on every exit on Highway 1 (the main highway from Santa Cruz to Monterey). At the time I did not know what happened, only that something significant did occur. I immediately turned to the local news, where I heard an officer-involved shooting had resulted in the death of two police officers. I immediately turned to facebook for more information as the night went on. Around midnight, I turned on the news and heard the names of the officers involved. To my sadness, Sergeant Loran “Butch” Baker was one of the officers involved in the shooting. Butch was a friend of mine and my husband. Facebook became my source of information from then on as I wanted the most up-to-date information on the shooting and the forthcoming memorial service. I found the police departments Twitter page as well to keep the information forthcoming. My heart breaks for what his family is going through and for the other officer slain next to Butch. Detective Elizabeth Butler was a young mother of two little boys who have their whole lives ahead of them. I know this is somewhat off topic, but I feel better sharing this experience with my classmates. Our police officers are everyday heroes. They put their lives on the line to protect us and our loved ones. The next time to see a law enforcement officer, I ask that you smile or wave to show your appreciation. It may be the last act of kindness they receive.

References

Ivie, E. (2013, March 23). Bay area police set tweets in motion. Santa Cruz Sentinel, p. C4.

Lamberty, R. (2013, Month 22). Local police participate in tweet-a-thon. Retrieved from http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/boston/10010165391513/local-police-stations-participate-in-tweet-a-thon/

Webster , R., & Stevens, L. (2013, Month 5). Social media is critical to police it systems dealing with newsworthy issues. Retrieved from http://lawscommunications.com/

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13 Responses to Law Enforcement Agencies Around the World Connect via Twitter – #poltwt!!!

  1. clionberger says:

    It’s great to see first responders taking advantage of a technology and channel that provides instant communications to millions of followers. What can hopefully follow is a more watchful society that can help spot criminals and catch or, better yet, prevent them from committing a crime to begin with.

    Other local government agencies (such as schools) are starting to leverage social media as a great way to quickly and easily disseminate information to interested parties. Just this afternoon, for instance, I used Facebook to communicate to our students, staff and parents that schools are closed tomorrow due to snow (yes, snow in late March in Virginia; that groundhog lied, but I digress). Within seconds, literally, seconds people already were responding to the post. Social media gives us communicators an immensely powerful and useful tool for interaction. We need to be careful to use it responsibly.

    • jacquelinecavalier says:

      Hi Chuck,

      I love that you use Facebook to communicate with your staff, parents, and students. What an immediate way to send and receive messages regarding school news. I remember praying for snow days (I grew up in Connecticut) and watching the news to see if our school had posted a cancellation. My mom used to listen to the radio as well if we were not by a television to hear the news. It was always a waiting game. Nowadays information is so immediate it saves times and makes receiving news that much easier. I bet it has made your job a lot easier too.

      Thanks for your response!
      Jacqueline

  2. Andrea Lavin says:

    Jacqueline,
    I just the the Police Captain of a local station being interviewed on the news and he gave out his twitter address for people to follow him. I thought that was really smart and unexpected. It is definitely a sign of the times. I’m going share your post with my husband. Will be interesting to hear what he has to say since he hates social media! lol 🙂 Great post as always!!
    ~Andrea

    • jacquelinecavalier says:

      Hi Andrea!

      I was wondering if your husband or his agency was participating in the Twitter event. I think it is amazing that law enforcement can connect globally through technology, and that connection is communicated in an instant. Imagine what this could do for Amber Alerts or immediate threats of violence.

      It makes perfect sense, but must also be handled with care. First and foremost, the officers’ safety has to be the main concern. I wonder what protocols are in place for using social media in law enforcement situations. It will be interesting to see how this tool grows over the next few years.

      Thank you for your response!! Miss you!
      Jacqueline

  3. amonda says:

    Jacqueline,

    First off, my sentiments of sorrow over the loss of the officer, and your friend, for this type of tragedy is both senseless and demoralizing.
    I found your blog to be very informative and insightful. It is amazing how we as consumers have abandoned all patience in our demand for when events (both positive and negative varieties ) are reported for us to access. In the case of Twitter and Facebook, I can certainly understand why and how these media are becoming more and more prevalent sources of news, as they provide the aforementioned instantaneous access. However, as with anything else available via the Internet, we must always exercise caution to verify the statements cited on social media and other digital outlets, as there is a lot of bogus information that is disseminated hourly on the Web, and social media sites are no exception.

    Thanks for a very interesting article; I enjoyed reading it, and you covered the topic eloquently.

    Al

    • jacquelinecavalier says:

      Hi Al,

      Thank you for your kind words! It was senseless and such a tragedy, especially for the children left behind.

      I agree with your comments about bogus information being posted on the Internet. Imagine if someone hacked into this account? The damage could be devastating. My guess is that IT specialists are working on how to keep these mediums available to law enforcement agencies and at the same time protected from those that wish to spread harm.

      I appreciate your insight!
      Jacqueline

  4. Kerry says:

    Jacqueline,

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and his fellow officer. We went through something similar down here (although it didn’t affect me as personally as your experience did you), with the Christopher Dorner story. The young man who was one of Dorner’s first victims was a USC DPS officer. In fact, Dorner’s former precinct is in USC’s neighborhood, and on the day of his capture I ran into and spoke with a couple of female LAPD officers who knew both Dorner and the DPS officer.

    On a more upbeat note, I am thrilled to learn that there is so much interdepartmental collaboration going on as a result of using social media! I was thinking while I was reading your post, “Hmmm…maybe federal law enforcement will catch on and become better partners with other agencies to solve crimes.” And as we read in one of our books, better communication might have saved the lives of many of the first responders to the 9/11 attacks (Bolman & Deal, 2005, p. 44). In fact, it’s what lead to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security…and still the CIA and FBI can’t seem to get along!

    Thanks for a very interesting and uplifting (mostly) post.

    K

    • jacquelinecavalier says:

      Hi Kerry!

      How are you? I miss having you in class!

      I can imagine that more up-to-date technology would have saved many first responders lives on 9/11. It makes me wonder how different the outcome would have been if Twitter, Facebook, and smartphone apps had been around. The attacks were in 2001 and Twitter was introduced in 2010. Nine years of technology has made a huge difference. Imagine what the next nine years will bring!

      Thank you for your kind words,
      Jacqueline

  5. calandry says:

    Jacqueline,

    I’m sorry for your loss. My Dad is a sheriff’s deputy back home and I know that every time there’s a call, I can’t help but to worry about what he may be facing. I applaud the courage of Sgt. Baker and Det. Butler. My prayers go out to them and their families and friends.

    I enjoyed your post because I feel like it brings together the traditional (law enforcement) with the new and modern (social media). In a world where practically everyone is connected through outlets like Facebook and Twitter, it makes sense that law enforcement would find a way to reach the public through these channels. Your personal experience is a perfect example of that. You turned to social media to be informed about an incident that you were personally vested in. It was current and up-to-date, and in law enforcement, time is always of the essence. This post proves that social media is a powerful tool that, when harnessed, can prove to be an asset for even the most traditional of institutions.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    • jacquelinecavalier says:

      C,

      I can only imagine how worried you must be for your dad’s safety! Having a loved one work on the front lines in law enforcement, is a huge sacrifice for the whole family. The dangers they face everyday are so scary. It is my hope that this technology continues to grow and law enforcement agencies positively benefit from these social platforms. Communication is knowledge, and with knowledge comes choices. I hope these choices bring positive change for all of our safety.

      Thank you for your kind words! I will keep you and your dad in my thoughts and prayers!
      Jacqueline

  6. michael.david says:

    Hi Jacqueline, that is very sad to hear and I wanted to offer my condolences to you and your family. On the other hand, it’s good to hear that Twitter is helping officers and their departments communicate and transfer data faster than before. It is a great way for law enforcement to connect with the public and announce in real time. We can all hope and pray that every little bit can help reduce the amount of violence on the streets they patrol.

  7. aflores says:

    Hi,

    My brother is a police officer, so I know exactly what you mean in your last sentence. I am sorry about your friend.

    In terms of the use of social media by law enforcement, it sounds like an innovative idea that they must carefully execute. I am not sure if tweeting about a drunk driver or might violate his/her privacy, so they must proceed very carefully. I think using social media to engage the community is smart, but they need to be prepared to effectively respond to any inquiries from the community or else people might be disappointed.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Adriana

  8. lynnhoff17 says:

    Jacqueline:

    First off I am so sorry for your loss. Law enforcement is such a dangerous profession and our police personnel don’t get half the respect they deserve for what they do to protect us.

    As for the Tweeting movement among law enforcement entities, I wonder how much of a learning curve it was for some of the more seasoned officers. I know in my line of work (a radiology society), we have tried to encourage some of our volunteers in engaging in Twitter conversations about medical imaging, medicine in general, etc. While some of their reluctance lies in not wanting to go out on a limb on a certain issue–and then be called out by a colleague–some of it lies in just not being comfortable with or understanding the technology. I would suspect that a lot of officers fall into the same age group as our volunteers, so I wonder what kind of training and acclimation efforts were required to get them to sign on (literally and figuratively).

    Lynn