Monday, November 17, 2014

How Law Enforcement Agencies can make use of Social Media

When thinking about the positive outcomes of the use of Social Media, law enforcement agencies usually do not come first. Social networks like Facebook or Twitter are very often perceived as a tool exclusive to a younger generation without any possible use for government agencies (except for spying, but I won't talk about that today). Nevertheless, the Boston Police proofed many wrong. During the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013, the police made use especially of Twitter as a very effective public communications tool not only to inform the public, but also to support their active investigations. In reference to the movie #TwitterRevolution from CNBC, this blog post is supposed to provide a short timeline based on the events of this incident to show how law enforcement agencies can use Social Media in the 21st century.

- Minutes after the bomb went off, the police used social media to tell people to clear the finish line to give access to the first responders.

- During the next days, Boston Police was looking for videos of the finish line to support their investigations and encouraged citizens to share their videos with them via Twitter, reaching out to a very large audience in a very short time.

- After the suspects were identified, the police tweeted pictures of them to increase their efforts and reach to find them ("Do you know these individuals?").

- During a shoot out of the suspects being on the run, a witness was taking pictures of them while shooting at the police. "Shoot out outside my room room in Watertown. 62 Laurel st." Within minutes, he had "hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands" followers. "You could have called the radio, tv station..." as a reporter asked this person about why he didn't use the classic media. "Didn't even cross my mind... It was Twitter."

- Minutes after the remaining suspect was caught, what was the first tool the Boston Police used to inform the people? Right, it was Twitter.

As one spokesperson of the police points out, the Police was always depended on classic media when communicating with the public. "Now we can tell our own story." According to the documentary, just 18% of all American adults are actually using Twitter. But the impact on many aspects of life is undeniable and is very likely to increase, assuming that this number will grow within the next years. Hence, other law enforcement agencies should look up to the Boston Police not only for their brave efforts in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing, but also how they used Social Media in a very effective and probably unprecedented manner.

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