In this entry, I’ll share my thoughts on Twitter as a public safety service and opine on Law Enforcement’s engagement on it as well as provide suggestions to law enforcement agencies nationwide to better interact with Twitter (ultimately, their citizens). Also, I compiled a comprehensive list of all the Police departments who are on Twitter.
Twitter has gained a lot of popularity in a relatively short amount of time. If you’re not Tweeting yet (the act of posting a message on Twitter), you probably should. Beyond the anecdote of ‘massive growth,’ Twitter has quite a bit of momentum and probably one of the most engaging social media services to date. Boasting 422% growth in 12 months, it has outpaced the growth of professional social network, LinkedIn.
With this growth, it attracted many users. “Use” is the the keyword, since many people utilize Twitter for different reasons. For some, it’s the live nature of the conversations as they lurk and voyeur from their desktop to see what the world is talking about. For others, its the pseudo-permanent/private/public conversation with their peers. Several companies have taken their social media efforts and laser-focused them into building strong Twitter relationships with their users. Comcast demonstrates an example of consumer advocacy on Twitter. Along with the good, comes the influx of abuse — harassment, spam and SEO hijinks — but Twitter seems to have a good handle on their network integrity lately.
An interesting trend which is exclusive to Twitter compared to traditional social networks is increase in participation from Law Enforcement agencies (aka, cops) in disseminating public safety information to the masses — or at least to those that follow them. Lacking police 10-Code jargon, the police can be followed by the average citizen without knowledge of proprietary procedures. As an example, pre-Twitter police departments would require citizens to acquire a police scanner, look up frequencies and learn to decipher their 10-code variations, learn the vernacular to get updates on their police. This big step in information disclosure, especially from a law enforcement agency. It is intriguing, even questionable by some. I realize dispatchers aren’t going to relay calls through Twitter; and obviously a Public Information Officer (PIO, aka, sacrificial lamb) will be posting messages, leveraging the use of 140-character limitation to their advantage.
So in my metro region, Scottsdale Police Department is on Twitter. I discovered through my friend and colleague, Editweapon, when he posted a suggestive response to @ScottsdalePD about their traffic school options. No reply from Scottsdale Police Department as subtly expected — which raises the question over their underlying motive behind Twitter usage– is it really public awareness or merely a public relations ulterior cover?
Now, I realize the police department lacks resources to answer every question, but if one can still achieve instant gratification from a police officer in uniform, why can’t someone receive the some from the person behind the ScottsdalePD Twitter account? If you want, try it. Just wait at a Quick Trip for a Scottsdale unit to show up to get a refill on their Drank, then just start some idle dialog. They are decent approachable people. According to their Twitter profile, “Excellence. Initiative. Integrity,” they seem to be lacking initiative and integrity in posting timely updates to those who are interested. I don’t want to have to reprogram my Triple-Trunked Police Scanner, I’d like to just lurk on Twitter to get updates from them.
I will contend there is a huge opportunity for law enforcement agencies to broadcast public safety matters to a wide audience with minimal effort. I would probably say that NCMEC is the best-in-class public safety alerting mechanism on Twitter. Whenever there is a catastrophic event, Twitter is very useful, inexpensive, [mostly] reliable and searchable social media device that empowers users for awareness. I’ve written about the potential juxtaposed against the importance of Twitter, so definitely read up on my thoughts on that.
I’ve wondered if I ever tweeted an emergency toward a public safety agency, would they receive it. Much like if I text a SMS message to “911,” would the PSAP receive it? I never tried it as I’m sure I would test it in an actual emergency situation. I can anticipate that as text messaging surpasses voice messaging, emergency services would adapt and be prepared. I don’t know, but if a dispatcher knows, feel invited to comment anonymously here and let me know. Otherwise, I urge citizens to demand that their tax dollars are spent on improve technology to empower 911 operators.
In summary, police departments who use Twitter are taking a step in the right direction; however, they must understand the immense responsibility in what they do. When a public-safety official posts (or fails to post) messages in a timely manner, people’s lives can be at risk. If anything, it becomes a great asset for journalists if not for citizens as they can be micro-messaged if they follow them with their cell phone.
Here are a list of police departments or law enforcement agencies I found who exist on twitter. Go a head and follow them and re-Tweet any interesting, important or useful Tweets:
- NCMEC (National) — http://twitter.com/missingchildren
- Scottsdale, AZ Police Department — http://twitter.com/ScottsdalePD
- Chandler, AZ Police Department (No Activity) — http://twitter.com/ChandlerPolice
- Franklin, MA Police Department — http://twitter.com/franklinpolice
- Austin, TX Police Department (Protected) — http://twitter.com/AustinPD
- Marple Twp. Police Department (No Activity) — http://twitter.com/marplepolice
- Coralville, IA Police Department — http://twitter.com/CoralvillePD
- Portsmouth, VA Police Department — http://twitter.com/PortsmouthPD
- San Diego, CA Police Department (PIO, Protected) — http://twitter.com/SDPD_PIO
- Shepherdsville, KY Police Department (No Activity) — http://twitter.com/ShepPolice
- University of Houston, TX Department of Public Safety (No Activity) — http://twitter.com/uhdps
Agencies we NEED on Twitter:
- Department of Homeland Security
- Tucson Police Department
… LOL yeah I won’t hold my breath.
Any feedback, comments or updates on this entry? …Post a comment below!