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?