“We got good community involvement, and that’s what we want to have,” Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said at a news conference.
This quote comes as a result of a parent who used Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about her missing child.
There are various ways social media plays a role in investigations, including intelligence gathering, public awareness, crowdsourcing, and generating leads. With all this available online, it is important to both educate the personnel on how it works and to be cautious of the validity and reliability of the information. Not surprisingly, you can’t believe everything you read online.
Social media has been a game changer – both for the good and bad. While it’s easy to see the good when crimes are solved through the help of social media, but the downside includes posting incorrect or bad data that can’t effectively be corrected because of the nature and speed of sharing. Either way it can’t be discounted as a strong player in the field of public service.
A 2013 survey conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found nearly 96 percent of departments use social media in some form, and 80 percent reported it had helped solve crimes. Some agencies are using Pinterest to post mug shots and others using Vine, a platform for sharing short, looped videos.
Make no mistake, social media is powerful and law enforcement agencies across the country are using it for more than just crime solving. These tools are critical to getting important information out to the public quickly. Whether it’s a fatal motor accident that closes a highway or a pending storm that could take out power, using social media is keeping cities running.
In New York, the Broome County law enforcement team has more than 5,000 followers on Facebook and is using their site for marketing purposes as well.
“An example would be if we had an upcoming citizen’s police academy, we would advertise of Facebook or put out on Twitter that we have that, and then we would get a bigger response of people wanting to attend those,” said Binghamton Police Captain Jack Collins.
Social media sites are a valuable communication tool for everyone so it will be the goal of the public sector to use these tools with much caution and guidance.