January 2, 2013 By Noelle Knell
"Social media is the most recent evolution in communication technology. I don’t think there’s a choice as to whether or not law enforcement uses social media."
So says law enforcement consultant Lauri Stevens in an interview with Government Technology. Stevens, founder of Massachusetts-based LAwS Communications, works with police departments all over the United States and Canada, and feels that while many agencies are getting social media right, there is ample opportunity to improve.
Those with the most successful implementations, according to Stevens, understand that social media can effectively engage citizens as active partners in keeping communities safe. And in a major incident involving the police, an established following on social media can help keep rumors at bay and contribute to a more positive outcome.
A recent international study (PDF) by technology consulting firm Accenture found that 88 percent of citizens want to help the police fight crime. Perhaps more telling, however, is the fact that 84 percent of respondents “feel only minimally informed of local police activities.”
So how can social media help bridge this gap?
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.