Untweetable: Social Media and Law Enforcement

social-network_110002684-012814-intPosted by Crime Tech Solutions – Your Source for Investigation Software

“I’m addicted to Twitter. My doctor says it’s untweetable” – Norm Macdonald, Comedian.

Social Media has infiltrated every aspect of our lives in a very real way. Friends and family use it to stay connected, businesses use it for advertising and PR and journalists use it to keep the public informed with up-to-the-minute developments.

Whether public or private sector, it seems every organization uses social media to connect to millions of people over services like Facebook or Twitter. But law enforcement is a different beast altogether. How have the police adapted to “always connected” culture we find ourselves living in?

Law enforcement has become as entwined in social media as any other industry. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police 2013 Social Media Survey, 95.9 percent of police precincts have adopted the use of social media platforms. Some other highlights from the survey include:3d-pie-chart-illustration_zkDXVIu_

  • 9 % of agencies surveyed use social media in some capacity.
  • The most common use of social media is for criminal investigations at 86.1%.
  • 4% of agencies report that social media has helped solve crimes in their jurisdiction.
  • 1% of agencies state that social media has improved police-community relations in their jurisdiction.

With over 80 percent of precincts reporting that public outreach via social media can be a crime solving tool, it seems like a match that brings us a great many success stories. It has, however, also been the foundation for many blunders.

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Social Media has not always been kind to Law Enforcement.

In 2014, the NYPD encouraged the people of New York City to take pictures of local law enforcement helping the community and post them to Twitter with the hashtag #myNYPD, but instead twitter was flooded with pictures of police abuse and misconduct as well as jokes at the NYPD’s expense.

Again in 2014, the police in Prince George County, in suburban Washington, DC, announced plans to live-tweet a prostitution sting operation and post names and pictures of those arrested. The idea was unpopular with the public, who expressed their outrage via PGPD’s social media accounts. The police eventually backpedaled on the live-tweeting, and declared the initial threat a success since nobody showed up to hire a prostitute the day of the sting. Perhaps that is a victory in and by itself, but one would assume that prostitution activities returned to normal shortly thereafter.

The problems are not limited to American police departments. In 2014 police in Helsinki, Finland and Salford, England, were accused of victim-blaming over social media.

twocentsOur two cents: If law enforcement can use social media as an effective tool to prevent and solve crimes, as well as build rapport with the public, then it is important that they continue do so. It is, however, important for police departments to learn from blunders such as these in order to keep social media working for them. Not against them.

(NOTE: Crime Tech Solutions is an Austin, TX based provider of crime and fraud analytics software for commercial and law enforcement groups. Our offerings include sophisticated Case Closed™ investigative case management and major case management,GangBuster™ gang intelligence software, powerful link analysis software, evidence management, mobile applications for law enforcement, comprehensive crime analytics with mapping and predictive policing, and 28 CFR Part 23 compliant criminal intelligence database management systems.)

2 thoughts on “Untweetable: Social Media and Law Enforcement”

  1. Our department uses social media for investigations all the time. Funny to read about the pitfalls but still an increasingly important part of law enforcement.

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