Until about two years ago I did not know what “podcast” meant. Not surprisingly, because this word has not been around for more than six years or so. What is podcasting? Podcasting is a hybrid word that has part “iPod” and “broadcasting” as it’s roots. According to Wikipedia podcasting is “a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and downloaded through web syndication.” The important part law enforcement should take away from this is that the part about “audio files can be downloaded on the web.” This means mass communication to citizens on their terms. But, how has law enforcement communicated information to their customers in the past?
Traditionally, law enforcement communicated through written press releases to pre-determined media planned events. If there was an egregious crime law enforcement may reach out to television outlets to request help or to disseminate information about a crime, event, emergency management concern. Finally, radio was a less common form of communication that law enforcement used to disseminate information and it was usually came off as information from a news report. As you can see the old communication ways are highly inefficient and have the potential to be too closely controlled by limited outlets causing a larger potential for miscommunication.
Why then should law enforcement be concerned with podcasting? For starters the cost of podcasting is nominal and could in most cases cost nothing more than manpower time. Podcast’s can be created using a PC/Mac computer and for that matter an iPhone. There are inexpensive editing software programs that can caste a more professional persona on the podcast, which can then be uploaded to numerous websites for FREE, my favorite is iTunes. Here are some of the missions law enforcement can communicate to their consumers:
-Real time criminal activities that could endanger the public
-Emergency management scenarios
-Crime prevention messaging
-Police leadership messaging
Above is not an all inclusive list of the potential uses of podcasting that law enforcement could take advantage of. Paramount is the fact that podcasting is an inexpensive communication tool that has the ability to reach an ever growing culture where people are obtaining their news from the world wide web. If you want to hear more register to hear me expand on this topic at the Social Media In Law Enforcement (SMILE) conference in Washington, DC – April 7th, 8th & 9th, 2010.