There seems to be a reluctance of law enforcement in a general sense to become involved in social media. Whether it is lack of education, funds, or knowledge law enforcement is fast being left behind by criminals who are adapting to social media. An example, Flash Mobs became a problem in Philadelphia this past March that caused the Philadelphia P.D. to reach out to the F.B.I. for help monitoring social networks as a tool to help reduce the crimes stemming from these “socially induced” flash mobs. Flash mobs are not new and originally started out as youth meet ups that are coordinated through social networking sites or text messages. The Philadelphia P.D. has a better social media platform than most law enforcement agencies, but they needed more.
The more needed is a “social media” strategy to consider law enforcement and social media. What does that mean? Criminals are not waiting to see if social media/social networking sites are useful for their criminal activities. Criminals are adapting and taking advantage of social networking sites and converting their activities on these sites to offline cash or victims. Criminals are also learning how to communicate through social networking sites to become more efficient at criminal activities. For the most part law enforcement agencies are not involved in social media/social networking sites and if they are involved it is a half hearted campaign. Law enforcement needs to bear a presence in social networking and get comfortable to prevent being left behind in the cultural communication change that is occurring.
Law enforcement should consider a social media strategy to bolt onto their current communications plan. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Basically you use social media as another tool to help communicate your message and listen to what is going on around you. By the way, most social networks are FREE and the only cost is the labor that it takes to be involved. Social media/social networks have created new media and tools that are quickly developing that are able to provide localized information for law enforcement to use as intelligence. If I were a chief I would be fully immersed in determining how social media, social networking, new media could further my agencies communication and where this communication is heading, which is mobile. Let me give you a scenario that is not too far off.
In the near future mobile devices will easily be able to capture and edit video within a few seconds of the capture (already can). Next this video can be uploaded to YouTube or other video social networks becoming available to the world within maybe 5 minutes of an incident. The editing part is what law enforcement should be considering. What happens when a video is derogatorily edited, with voice clips of racial slurs, etc placed into a video of an officer lawfully performing their duty? What happens is the potential for public outcry that could lead to a riot before slow reacting law enforcement figures out what happened. Law Enforcement should consider becoming involved in social media and not because everyone else is, but use it for the tool it is, the criminals are. Mike Vallez