Portland OR Police Bureau embracing social media

In May 2011, I had the opportunity to attend the SMILE Conference in Chicago and I came back incredibly energized with moving forward on our use of social media. One of the ideas presented at the conference was from Chief Grogan of Dunwoody, GA, about promoting an event via social media to draw followers.

On Friday June 3, 2011, the Portland Police Bureau released the artwork for its new police car logos via Facebook. A news release was sent out 2 days prior and informed the community that the new design would be launched on Facebook. We encouraged people to come “like” us to see the design.

Portland Police Bureau Facebook numbers had been growing at roughly 40 per week but in the 3 days leading up to and following the vehicle design launch, 451 new people “liked” the Portland Police Bureau. Twitter followers jumped as well and the hope is that it will continue to increase because the Portland Police Bureau’s official Twitter handle (@PortlandPolice) is going to be on the new patrol cars. In addition, the Bureau also maintains a second Twitter handle (@ppbpio) for media releases and information.

In the very near future, the goal is to have officers in each of the three precincts and the Traffic Division maintaining Twitter and Facebook accounts to connect directly with the communities they serve. The Bureau has recently purchased iPads for the two PIOs and is looking at smart phones for officers to use in the field.

The Portland Police Bureau is developing a strategic communications plan and social media is playing a big role in its development. The Office of Public Information is staffed by two full-time sworn Public Information Officers, and three non-sworn members. Part of the communications plan includes a push toward social media journalism and producing stories to be delivered directly to the community via social media platforms.

Though traditional media remains a constant news stream for community members, the ability to tell our own story directly to community members via social media is beneficial. Recent studies conclude that people are getting their news increasingly from social media and our agency is working toward being connected with those people.

Become a “friend” of the Portland Police Bureau at Facebook.com/PortlandPolice and follow us on Twitter @PortlandPolice.

Sergeant Pete Simpson is an 18-year-veteran of the Portland Police Bureau. Sergeant Simpson worked in the Gang Enforcement Team for 11 years as an officer and detective before promoting to Sergeant in 2008. Sergeant Simpson was a Hostage Negotiator for 7 years as well as an instructor for the National Gang Center in Tallahassee, Florida. Sergeant Simpson is currently assigned to the Chief’s Office as one of the Public Information Officer’s for the Portland Police Bureau.

Connecting with the Community & Media via Social Media

So your agency has decided to participate in social media. You’ve sent out a couple Tweets and Facebook updates but there’s been no response. Is anyone listening?

Many law enforcement agencies use social media as a one-way, notification tool, but there are other agencies that are successfully using social media as a communication tool. The three keys to law enforcement communication through social media are:

  • content
  • consistency
  • and sharing.

Content is the most important factor in your social media efforts.
Content can include traffic alerts, breaking news, event postings, department news, press releases, crisis communication, photos and videos from in the field and responses to questions or comments from the community and the media.

Once you decide what you’ll be saying you need to consider how you’ll say it. As a former reporter, I can tell you that I wanted and needed frequent communication with my sources. Social media has become a place where reporters can get information and ask follow-up questions. Think about it: instead of fielding a dozen phone calls from local reporters, post a link to a media release and answer a couple questions. This saves you and the reporter time and energy. And, it’ll build your credibility with the media and show reporters that you care about getting out timely information and fielding their questions.

Also, don’t be afraid to become more personal with reporters via social media. If they ask a question or post something interesting, don’t hesitate in responding. This gives your agency a human face and makes you much more approachable for questions or media requests.

And while you’re answering questions, make sure to post a few of your own. Setting up polls or posting questions or quizzes will drive discussion and will encourage feedback. Agencies should also be prepared for unwelcome communication. Lynn Hightower, communications director for the Boise (Idaho) Police Department, says being prepared for any type of question or comment is key in your social media planning. “Even if you don’t ask for interaction, citizens will have questions and comments on community issues and they will try to reach out to your agency for answers and feedback,” she said. “To ignore those inquiries would not send a positive message. Agencies using social media should plan ahead for the types of interaction likely to come their way and be prepared.”

Dionne Waugh, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist for the Richmond (Virginia) Police Department, said her agency has gotten a lot of positive reaction to their Daily Good News Item and the Officer, Sergeant and Civilian of the Month videos and notes. “I think this is because they give people insight into the department and the great work of employees they normally wouldn’t hear about,” she said. “On the flip side, we’ve seen a lot of debate when we post mugshots from our prostitution stings. Depending on the operation and manpower, we post both the prostitutes’ and the johns’ photos. I don’t consider this a negative reaction. I think it’s a good thing when we can generate debate between people about the best way to reduce crime.”

Almost as important as content is the frequency which you post to social media. As Waugh said above, Richmond PD gets a lot of great response to their regular features and Boise Police Department has gotten great response from its daily Twitter traffic tip. People come to rely on these daily, weekly or monthly nuggets of information. And, as you can see, they don’t need to be huge, breaking news stories. They can be something as simple as a profile of an officer or a construction update. Each of these regular postings leads to increased agency visibility and better recognition as a trusted source of information.

Also, think about the timing of your messages. If you have a message you really want the community to read, make sure to send them at peak social media traffic times – 7 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. These are the times people are waking up, eating lunch, winding down at work and settling in for the night, and they are much more likely to see your message at the top of their news feeds, instead of wading through hundreds of messages before seeing your hour-old alert.

If you have a really big story you want covered by the media, try thinking of when a reporter is most likely to need a story to cover – at the end of the week. On Thursdays and Fridays reporters are trying to find stories to fill the weekend editions.

Retweeting on Twitter or reposting information from reliable sources will help your cause two-fold – you’ll be seen as a consistent, reliable source of interesting information and the community will start coming to you for updates. You will also be seen by those who originally sent out the information and your information is more likely to be retweeted and reposted by those people. It’s another important tool in the social media toolbox for communication and information sharing.

Image: Flickr by Scoobay

Kelly L. Reynolds is a publications specialist with the Rocky Mountain Information Network, a regional law enforcement intelligence agency based in Phoenix, Arizona. At RMIN she designs and edits the monthly magazine, the RMIN Bulletin, which includes her monthly “Social Media Corner” column. Kelly also works as a social media consultant and has several years of experience as an online/social media reporter for a daily newspaper. @reynoldsreport | facebook.com/reynoldsreport

Social Media Quick Tip: Know Who Your Friends Are

Fake cop profiles are proliferating on Facebook & other social networks

On Facebook and other social media networks, do you know who's a real cop and who's not? Photo iStock

An old (bad) joke: A citizen calls the police and says she saw a UFO. Police: “How do you know it was a UFO?” Citizen: “It said ‘UFO’ on the aircraft.”

Fake cop profiles are proliferating on Facebook and other social networks. It’s imperative that real law officers don’t friend them. But, like UFOs, the fakes are not labeled as such.

How do you know who’s real and who’s not?

There are tell-tale signs: There may be a real vagueness in where they work, except to say it’s “in law enforcement.” But there isn’t a secret formula for identifying them. We’ve even seen some who use the photo of a deceased cop as their profile photo.

Why should you care? These phonies aren’t there because they love cops. Observations suggest they want:

1. To get your information and that of your friends/family;
2. To identify real law officers for their databases;
3. To legitimize themselves with others; and
4. To legitimize the shady groups they join.

When I see a profile I suspect is a phony, inevitably when viewing my “mutual friends” on Facebook, there’s someone I know to be a law officer. Not once, when I contact one of those real officers about how they know the presumed phony, have they answered that they know them to be real. It’s always along the lines of “they post a lot on XYZ page and he seems like a ‘good guy’.” Of course he does. That’s part of the ruse.

It’s not a popularity contest. Every time you’re presented with a friend request from someone you don’t know, tell yourself it might really be a wacko up to no good, because it could be.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on LawOfficer.com.

Social Media Quick Tip: Make Your URL Memorable

Your Facebook page’s URL can be customized once you have 25 fans

Make your Facebook URL (Web address) more memorable and short enough to fit on a website or business card by creating a custom URL. Your department’s Facebook page can have it’s own URL once you get 25 fans.

Once you’re logged in as the page administrator, type into the Web address bar “facebook.com/username” and hit enter. You will be presented with a dialog box where you select the page for which you’re creating the URL and type in your desired URL. Facebook checks to see if it’s available. If it is, confirm your choice.

The “gotcha” here is that if you type incorrectly and misspell the desired URL, you’re stuck with it–unless you’re tight with someone at Facebook.

Don’t call me; I’m not!

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on LawOfficer.com.

Social Media Quick Tip: Should You Tie Your Facebook & Twitter Accounts Together?

Remember: They are two totally different animals

Although widgets exist to auto-post everything from one to the other, should you do it?

The short answer is this: If everything you tweet is on Facebook (FB) and everything you post on FB is on Twitter, you might annoy some followers and lose them.

Generally, turning everything you post on Facebook into a tweet is harmless as tweets are short-lived and read “on the fly”. But remember the following:

  • Don’t let it be a replacement for actually using Twitter for what it’s for. Send other content-rich information in separate tweets.
  • When you’re writing a post to Facebook, remember it’s going out on Twitter too. Sometimes, a FB post, when read as a tweet, can be nonsensical.

On the flipside, sending all your tweets to FB is a bad idea. All it does is fill up your FB page and pushes the meatier content down. Post about the same events and issues, but refrain from letting one do the other.

You should always use Twitter to drive traffic back to your FB page, blog or YouTube channel. But do it with separate, carefully written tweets.


This Social Media QuickTip was first published on LawOfficer.com.

Social Media Quick Tip: Choose Your Facebook Profile Photo Wisely

Want to keep your LEO status on the DL? Don’t post a thin blue line image or a photo of yourself in uniform.

What’s the one thing people can see even if they aren’t connected to you on Facebook?

It’s your profile photo.

If you don’t want people you don’t know to know you’re a law enforcement officer, keep all signs of it off your photo on your personal profile. This seems obvious but we’ve heard of situations where people were outed as cops because, when a fellow officer had died, they turned their profile photo into the thin blue line. When they turned the photo back to one of themselves, the photo and their name were collected by people who might target them. It’s outrageous, but true.

Choose your photo wisely, and stay safe.

This Social Media Quick-tip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

Social Media Quick Tip: Turn Your Department’s Profile Into a Fan Page

Why? You’ll avoid maxing out your page.

If you're using a personal profile page for your department, once you hit 5,000 friends, you can’t have any more. With a fan page, you don’t have that limit.

Some police departments set up their Facebook (FB) page as a personal profile page; that is, one that’s meant for an individual person. Instead of someone “liking” your page, they become your friend. There are a few downsides to this, but chief among them is that FB means personal profiles to be for individuals and has been known to shut those pages down. Secondly, once you hit 5,000 friends, you can’t have any more. With a fan page, you don’t have that limit.

The good news is that a recent development in FB allows you to turn your friends into fans. If you have 2,000 friends, you can use the FB migration tool and not lose them, instead they are converted into “likes” on a page. But the only other thing that goes with your fans are your profile photos. All your other photos and any other content should be downloaded for reposting on your new fan page.

Learn more directly from Facebook, including information on how to download your information for backup.

This Social Media Quick-tip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

Related from Mashable: You Can Now Convert Your Facebook Profile to a Facebook Page

Facebook Secure Browsing for Officer Safety

And the implications for department social media policy

Early this year Facebook offered users the ability to use the sight a bit more securely with “secure browsing” (https) or SSL encryption, as Facebook said, “whenever possible”. It’s important to enable https, otherwise, any hacker sharing the same public wifi can easily infiltrate your social media accounts. But for police officers concerned about their own privacy and safety, there’s more to it.

Ethical hacker James F. Ruffer III of Unibox explained that with a plugin like Mozilla Firesheep anyone can BE YOU on sights like Facebook, WordPress, FourSquare, and Twitter The one protection a user has is enabling secure browsing with the https setting. In a recent post on the Social Media Security blog , he explained how with access, a hacker can control every aspect of the victim’s Facebook profile, including the victim’s Facebook Pages. He added, “Once I am in, the victim has to check secure browsing, log out, and log back in,” he said. “That’s the only way to destroy my attack vector.” Firesheep is a Mozilla Firefox browser extension and utilizes packet sniffing methods to intercept unencrypted cookies or sessions.

This technique is known as “sidejacking” and although the hacker doesn’t have control over the victim’s account, they have mirrored what the victim is doing from his or her browser onto theirs. Due to the high level of attention this security flaw demanded, a Mozilla Firefox plugin called Blacksheep was quickly developed to detect if Firesheep is being used on a network, Blacksheep tries to create “false” sessions IDs on a network to see if the sessions are being hijacked.

Hackers  can also use Firesheep to extend their access to Social Media Management platforms and still get simultaneous control of all the victim’s profiles from there, even if the https secure browsing is enabled.

Detective Constable and forensics investigator Warren Bulmer of the Toronto Police Service is an expert on Facebook security. He explained in most cases the victim wouldn’t know their account has been compromised unless the hacker makes a change. “As long as the person doesn’t do anything they could spy all day long. They can take digital pictures of your screens and collect intelligence all day long. There’s no way to know that they’re there.”

A big part of the problem is Facebook itself. Its new features are implemented automatically, so that users have to actively change the features, which, in many cases, involve user data. Facebook isn’t trying to allow hacking, rather than allow themselves the ability to collect mass amounts of user data. However, the tactic does leave security holes.

Recently the security firm Sophos issued an open letter to Facebook asking for three things, one of which was for https security to be turned on by default. When Facebook introduced the feature, the social network posted on its blog, “We hope to offer HTTPS as a default whenever you are using Facebook sometime in the future.”

Until Facebook makes secure browsing the default setting, know this:

  1. To turn on https secure browsing, in the upper right corner pull-down menu, go to “Account Settings”, then “Account Security”. The https checkbox is the first option.
  2. Some games you play or applications that you might install will turn off https. You should be notified when this happens, be sure to re-enable secure browsing afterwards.
  3. With https security turned on, your use of Facebook will likely run more slowly. It’s a small price to pay.
  4. Never trust any social network to guard your privacy. Guarding your information and therefore your safety and career security is your responsibility.

Regardless of whether Facebook enables the security setting by default or not, law enforcement officers need to take extra care to secure their profiles. Ruffer recommends using an Ironkey, an inexpensive USB device that guarantees secure browsing. Secure data plans like 3G, or a portable hub such a Verizon’s “Mifi”, can be pricey, but may be the best option. Otherwise, avoiding public wifi is the best protection.

Bulmer cautions that there are things you should “just not do” from a public computer or on a public wifi. “In these Internet cafés or coffee shops, you have no idea what their network or someone else also using it is capturing. It would be nice to be able to say the restaurant or hotel is legit and they don’t keep information. The reality is, you really don’t know that. The safest method, if you really need to use these social networks is to do as much security as possible,” he said.

So what should this mean for department social media policy?

When someone leaves the department, does department policy spell out how their accounts are processed and closed so that any security breaches that may have taken place on those accounts are done away with? The first article on ConnectedCOPS.net was an article on social media policy for law enforcement in August of 2009. In it, I called for requiring the people who use social media representing the department or in their personal lives to be competent with regard to how the platforms work. Social media is like anything else a law officer does at work, and it requires a significant amount of training to ensure this competence. Security issues like the one illustrated here reinforce the importance of this point. To this end, department policy should also require the pertinent security measures to help keep these breaches from happening in the first place.

New Social Media Duties for Dallas Police Officer

On February 16, 2011 I was given a new assignment in the Dallas police department’s media relations office as the social media officer. Little did I know what was in store for me! The department was joining the 21st century and my job was to help get us there. Our social media sites are now allowing us to reach thousands of Dallas residents and to get information rapidly out to and receive feedback and assistance from our many followers.

The Dallas police department has twelve social media sites that I oversee: three Twitter accounts, eight Facebook accounts, a YouTube account, and a Nixle account. The department has seven patrol substations and because of our size, each substation has its own Facebook account as well. Each station also has an officer who periodically posts to and monitors those accounts. Although those accounts are monitored by another officer, I have the responsibility for conducting on-going checks on them.

Once I got settled into my new office, I immediately went to work on updating these accounts. Our Facebook, Nixle, and one of the Twitters accounts are public sites that are open to the community. I am continuously posting information on our Facebook page which is in turn linked to our public Twitter account. This allows me to get information out on both simultaneously. Some examples of items that get posted on our page include: surveillance videos of cases where our homicide or robbery units are asking for the public’s help, department-sponsored events and fundraisers, award announcements, and press releases. I use our “Notes” page to post answers to questions most commonly asked, from “How to Commend an Officer” to “Obtaining Offense and Accident Reports.” Also I created a takedown policy for inappropriate posts to our Facebook accounts and placed it on our information page. This informs the community about what types of comment and photos will not be permitted on our page. One of our Twitter accounts is for departmental use only. This page was set up so that I could get departmental information out to police personnel rapidly and efficiently. Items usually sent out on this account range from retirement and award announcements, fundraisers, and information regarding sick or injured officers.

As I was getting our social media sites up-to-date, I also had to take on the many responsibilities of our other public information officers. This includes responding to media requests for information, photo assignments, press releases, and media interviews.

This first month has been a whirlwind and I have learned many things. I love challenges and am looking forward to helping the department move forward with our many social media projects.

Interact with Dallas Police:

Dallas Police YouTube

Dallas Police on Facebook



Southeast Division Facebook Page

South Central Division Facebook Page

Northeast Division Facebook Page

Northwest Division Facebook Page

Southwest Division Facebook Page

Central Division Facebook Page

North Central Division Facebook Page

Melinda Gutierrez

Senior Corporal Melinda Gutierrez has been with the Dallas Police Department for twelve years. Corporal Gutierrez spent time at the Northeast Patrol Division as a patrol officer and also as a Neighborhood Police Officer from March 1999 to July 2008. After leaving the Northeast Patrol Division, she was transferred to Jack Evans building which is the main headquarters for the Dallas Police Department. Corporal Gutierrez was assigned to the Fleet Unit in August of 2008 in which she along with other another officer oversaw the entire fleet of police vehicles. In February of 2011, Corporal Gutierrez was given the task of becoming the department’s Social Media Officer.

Facebook Search & Investigative Tips

The most common investigative request I receive is for information about Facebook. With over 500 million active users, it seems that everyone now has an account. Let’s look at the options.

If you have a name, searching Facebook is quite easy. Unfortunately, you must be logged in to a Facebook account to search and view profiles. Creating a real or fake account is easy, and I maintain a tutorial video here. To search a name, simply begin typing the name into the top search box on the page. It should look like this:

If you see the desired subject, you can click on the name. I do not recommend this, as you may have the wrong subject. Instead, click the “See more results…” link at the bottom. This will display the profiles that match your name. You may need to scroll down and click “See more results” for common names. If you are overwhelmed with options, click the “People” link on the left menu. This will allow you to filter by Location, Education, or Workplace. The most common use here is to type in the location of your target. This will help narrow down the results.

Now you can browse through the profiles. If you do not want to create an account, you can use sites like Facebook-Search or Open Facebook Search to search without logging in. This has worked for me in the past, but there are other options.

Facebook Advanced Search will allow you to search with many options. This requires you to be logged into an account to work. Start by clicking on the “Find People” tab. This will allow a search using ANY of the following: Name, School, City, Gender, Age (Min & Max), Relationship, DOB, etc. You can even search for people within a specified radius of a zip code. This is beneficial when you are not sure which local city was listed.

Clicking on the “Posts” tab will allow you to search within “Wall” posts by keyword. This is similar to the site Your Open Book. An example here would be to search a phone number. If any user ever listed that number on a Wall post, you would get a result which would identify the person’s name and profile. I have been very successful in the past using this method to identify unknown cell numbers. I encourage you to play around with this feature. This only searches the posted content, not the name of the person posting. If your target was mentioned in a post, it would find that. I maintain a video showing full details of this app HERE. Alos try the Your Open Book, as it occasionally obtains different results. If searching phone numbers, don’t use dashes, just the last four and middle three.

Between Facebook, Advanced Search, Open Facebook Search, and Your Open Book, you should easily find the content if it is out there. If you find a profile that is blocked, and the “Post” search tools did not yield results, there are still options.

If you want to locate photos from a blocked profile, open the user’s “Friends” list. I usually filter by the last name of the target. This will identify relatives that the target communicates with. Click on their profiles and go to the Wall section. Keep scrolling and clicking the “older posts” until you see photos that the person was tagged in. These will be photo albums of other users, possibly your target. Once you see a tagged photo from your target’s photo album, click it. This will open Facebook’s new photo viewer, which we do not want. Once this is open, hit the F5 key on your keyboard. This will refresh the page, close the photo viewer, and you will now be in the original photo album of your target. You can browse all photos even though their profile is private.

Here is a poor and obviously staged example. I have a private Facebook page HERE. There are no photos shared to the public. If you click on my only friend “John”, you will go to his page. Since his Wall is public, you can click on it and see posts. One post announces that I tagged him in my (private) photo album. By clicking on the word “album” directly after my name, you will now have access to all of my photos, even though they are not on my public profile.

In summary, if your original target of interest has a photo album, and he or she has “tagged” a person that has a public “wall”, you will eventually receive a live link to the original target’s photo album. On several occasions, this has been an easy and legal way to browse photos of subjects that have blocked their profile. This may take some time, but persistence will pay off.

Finally, if all else fails, I use a subpoena. Obviously, this applies to Law Enforcement. Facebook can be tricky about the wording that is required. If you do not use the right language, you will probably receive nothing or a response without content. For a copy of the Facebook LE guide, click HERE. This will explain the detail, but here is a summary.

The first part of this is to get a subpoena to send to Facebook. This subpoena should have the following language (using your target’s profile number). “Any and all records identified in relation to Facebook profile ID of 123456789 to include a full Neoprint of user ID 123456789, Photoprint of user ID 123456789, User Contact Info of user ID 1123456789,  and IP Log of user ID 123456789? A full copy of a sample subpoena can be found HERE. After this is sent, Facebook requests an email be sent to them with your info and the profile number of the requested target. This will allow them to send you an email with the results, which is faster than Postal. Below is an example of how the email should look.

Usually, a response will arrive in 2-4 weeks. If you have an exigent circumstance, such as an abduction, you should send an email to  subpoena@fb.com with the subject “EMERGENCY MATTER”. You can also call 650- 543-4938, but this will only allow you to leave a message. If you have an ABSOLUTE dire emergency, contact me and I can help.

This post was previously published on Computer Crime Info Blog.