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You Can’t Ban Social Media!

While reading some of my latest Google Alert’s I cam across a blog post by David Etue of FederalComputerWeek.com. The article titled “Mitigation, not prohibition, is best response to social media’s security risks” provides an excellent argument why organizations such as law enforcement agencies need to get into the conversation. Etue does a great job of identifying both the pitfalls and benefits to using social media. Yes, there are pitfalls to using social media, specifically if a social media plan is implemented “willy-nilly” without planning or expert advice. But there are also many benefits to using social media such as communicating with large groups of people, such as constituents.

Currently law enforcement is in the “wait and see” mode to see if social media/new media and social networking actually continue their exponential growth. By the time law enforcement gets on the bandwagon in may be too late! But it is not too late now to get involved and use social media/new media and social networking as another communications tool. Some specific law enforcement benefits from using social media are:

• Better control of your message and brand

• Community outreach

• Community policing

• Criminal investigations

• Crime prevention

• And more

David Etue has given four basics that should be included when an agency or organization wants to enter the social media realm.

1) Codes of conduct
2) Training
3) Official profiles
4) Controls

These basic steps are not complicated and are rather easy to implement when forming a social media plan. Actually, this article is a great first step to embrace with mitigation than to try to ban social media. Because banning social media will not work. Mike Vallez

social media and law enforcement

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Profile Photo Henry Brown

Yes you can! It is much easier for those people who apparently feel threatened by a loss of perceived power to simply deny access than engage in any mitigation.

Historically banning: of floppy disks; Access to the internet; laptop access to the intranet; thumb drives; Writeable CD drives; and the most recent banning of social media

Profile Photo Michael Vallez

I agree, you can ban social media, new media, social networking as an organization, but It will more likely do more harm than good. Once you go this route you invite unauthorized use and with our society becoming more mobile with technological advances in mobile technology i.e. iPad, Android, iPhone 4G, etc there will be a lack of control or enforcement. A curious thing as well. You can only bury your head so long before you start to hear what others are saying about you. In this case the best offense is not to run away, but to engage and accept that our culture is changing.

Profile Photo Spencer W. Clark

Here’s a concrete example: My neighborhood in Washington, DC maintains a very active listserv that is totally citizen-run where any and everything affecting the community gets discussed. One of the most refreshing and surprising things I’ve seen is that DC government officials stay in the loop and actually read and respond to relevant issues that are raised in the listserv. Our community police liaison, the Department of Public Works, City Councilors and the Mayor’s Office all participate in the most effective form of ongoing community outreach that I’ve ever seen.

When crimes happen, people ask questions, the police send a response and thousands of people read it instantly. We had a wave of burglaries a few months ago, and this two-way communication helped keep people on the lookout for the suspects, provided reassurance and advice on how to deter break-ins and ultimately helped contribute to their eventual arrest. When we were buried under two feet of snow this winter, we always knew what was going on with plowing and when and where trash pickup would be happening because a DPW staff representative would update us and respond to questions. When a citizen posts a complaint or concern, the council members or Mayor’s office often look into it… and report back! It’s timely, it’s transparent and its just good public service, plain and simple.

Listservs aren’t even particularly “new” media (though blogs and such exist in other places and may too be watched by officials), but they link together the community and certainly have changed how I perceive the responsiveness of government: I see what my government does regularly and know that if I ever have an issue I will know how and who to contact, and feel confident that I’ll get a response. Citizens gather via social media, and so there’s no excuse for government not to meet them on their terms, especially when it is clearly win-win for both.

Profile Photo Michael Vallez

Apparently some government agencies are getting into social media faster than others. I Attended the Social Media and Law Enforcement (SMILE) conference as a speaker in Wash D.C. in early April and there were several representatives from the Washington D.C. police department, which is encouraging.

The government sectors, agencies, departments that get the communication opportunities through social media, new media, and social networking are capitalizing on the cheap communication that is much faster and feeding an ever growing and voracious appetite. I love your examples @Spencer W. Clark. Thank you all for the comments!