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The SMILE Conference in Dallas – Registration is open

Adoption of social media by law enforcement is in a stage of exponential growth. Some law enforcement agencies have already experienced tremendous successes; while others are ready but don’t know how to get started. The law enforcement field is ready to add another weapon to its arsenal. The Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement (SMILE) conference will arm you with all the technical hands-on skills and the practical knowledge to enter the social media world with confidence.

The SMILE Conference is the leading conference devoted to Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement initiatives. The SMILE Conference has pioneered the adoption of social media by law enforcement agencies across the world for public outreach, crime prevention, and forensics. In conjunction with the ConnectedCOPS™ blog, The SMILE Conference has become both the go-to and most trusted source by law enforcement agencies worldwide.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown says his department has benefited from sending his Chief of Staff and social media officer to previous SMILE Conferences. He added, “This conference is focusing on one of the most exciting frontiers facing law enforcement today. The ever growing importance of Social Media should be embraced and utilized by law enforcement to enhance the service we provide the public.” The Dallas Police Department is hosting the conference in September.

A special emphasis on public order, social activism, and the changing relationship with traditional media

The first day of the conference, attendees hear from law enforcement and communication professionals on topics of social media strategy, reputation management, policy and other issues pertaining to community outreach. This (the fourth) SMILE Conference will also emphasize the changing role between law enforcement, social activists and traditional media. Thursday will offer an entire day of topics covering social activists’ interference with investigations, maintaining public order, and mass surveillance in an open source world.

Registration is open at The SMILE Conference website. Hotel registration information will be posted soon.

Free shuttle service between the hotel and airport(s) will be provided courtesy of the Dallas PD on the Tuesday prior to the conference and Friday evening.

Social events include a pre-conference reception Tuesday evening with Chief Brown, a tour of the Dallas Cowboy Stadium Wednesday evening and a Town Hall meeting Thursday evening. Details are available on the conference website.

The Social Media Canvass: A 21st Century Law Enforcement Tool

When a violent crime occurs and the police respond they begin to establish a command post where they plan on where and how to conduct the canvass for additional witnesses. There are many types of canvasses that the police conduct and now we have one with a 21st century twist. Properly conducted canvasses SHAVES hours off investigative time. Here are the different types of canvasses investigators should deploy during a major investigation:

Surveillance Camera Canvass
Hospital Canvass
Additional Witness Canvass
Vehicle Canvass
Evidence Canvass
Social Media Canvass

At the makeshift command post an investigative strategy takes place with the supervisor and the investigators. They develop a plan on what buildings to canvass first for additional witnesses. Generally, they start with the building that faces the scene and spiral outwards from there. However, before doing the traditional canvasses, investigators have a new tool at their disposal, the Social Media Canvass.

The Social Media Canvass allows investigators to follow the conversations about the incident via social media. A couple of clicks or swipes and investigators are “listening to the chatter on the electronic street.” The two most popular social media venues are Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is a lot easier to work with because you don’t need an account to start conducting searches.

For instance, the investigator arrives at the scene of a homicide on Main Street in Anytown. They step over the yellow tape and into the hot zone. Before the investigator whips out his/her’s reporter’s notebook and starts knocking on doors, they’ll pull out the department issued wireless tablet, laptop or smartphone and start searching. This is a better strategy then deciding on what door to knock on. Within seconds of an incident, people in the neighborhood, and sometimes those that are involved, are tweeting or posting on Facebook.

Here is how a search could work. The investigator goes to the Twitter.com search box and uses the hashtag (#) and types what they are looking for. In this scenario, the shooting occurred on Main Street in Anytown, so the separate searches would look something like this: #MainStreet, #MainSt, #Anytown, #ShootingMainStreet or any other combination. Based on the information they see, a better canvass strategy can be developed. Recently while searching for information on a past shooting incident, I found a Tweet that stated in sum and substance, “the cops just showed up at “Bill’s” house be careful of what you post.”

Catching conversations on Facebook is challenging because the investigator needs an account to start searching. That account should be an authorized department account, not their personal one. As easy it is for law enforcement to track suspects, they can track us!

Since there are over 700 million users on Facebook there is a good chance that your suspect has an account, especially if they are in the young adult age range. Before signing onto Facebook with the department’s password, the investigator should conduct a few general searches to narrow the focus. Most, if not all investigators will go straight to Google, but that is not the best search for Facebook. Microsoft’s Bing is Facebook’s default search engine. Another free site that provides an individual’s social media page information without signing up for an account is http://pipl.com.

Once the page is discovered it maybe public, which means limited information, such as a photo, street name, etc., can be viewed without being friends. However, if the page is for friends only, look at the lower left hand part of the screen. It often provides friends of the target’s page. Click on the target’s friends because one of their sites maybe public, which would allow the investigator to enter their world.

As the use of social media by police investigators increases in the short term, there will be many court challenges regarding it’s use in the future. It is important for investigators to follow the policies and procedures set forth by their departments. Do not do anything that can jeopardize your career, the case or your personal safety.

Joseph L Giacalone

Joseph L. Giacalone is a 19 year NYPD Detective Sergeant with an extensive background in criminal investigations. He has held many prestigious positions, but his favorite was the Commanding Officer of the Cold Case Homicide Squad. Joe obtained a Master of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice with a Specialty in Crime and Deviance from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2005. He has been an Adjunct Professor at John Jay since January of 2006 and is the author of the Criminal Investigative Function: A Guide for New Investigators, published by Looseleaf Law. You can follow Joe on Twitter: @ColdCaseSquad or @JoeGiacalone or on the web at: coldcasesquad.com

Social Media Handbook for Police: Part 11

Welcome to the the next instalment in my series of social media tips. These are aimed primarily at a police audience, but hopefully applicable to a wider group of people too, especially those in the public sector. This series of posts will aim to identify some good practice and useful hints and tips for police officers and staff to consider when using social media.

Part 11: More Operational Uses

Part 10 of the handbook tackled using social media in public order. As I said there, one of the more common themes around police use of social media is the question of how it can be used operationally. There is often a lot of scepticism – it is fine for ‘engagement’ but not for so called ‘real policing’. A number of forward thinking forces and individuals have however made a great deal of progress using social media in the more operational areas of policing.

Crime Investigation

Social media has been used in investigation of both serious and less serious crimes. Many people will be aware of the Joanna Yates case involving Avon and Somerset police.  There is still a facebook page up in memory of Joanna Yates, and the criminal justice system needs to be aware of the potential for public discussion of cases and the impact it may have on investigation, and ultimately on the ability to hold a fair trial. As an aside the Facebook page also contains some unpleasant comments, including several from people professing to be the killer.

Recently a DCI from Norfolk police was quoted as saying that “social media sites can be a doubl- edged sword. In major investigations they can find they have to deal with a large amount of unreliable information, posted online. Social media sites increase the volume of information police have to sift through, sometimes making it harder to identify what really happened.” This was in relation to a murder case, and centred around difficulties identifying people with real first hand knowledge as opposed to people who were just re-tweeting rumours and second hand information.

This can make social media a challenging space for investigation; the sense of anonymity and ease of spreading stories and rumours that social media can generate can swiftly result in a torrent of information that makes managing an investigation difficult. However it is always possible that there is real intelligence in all the other posts, and possibly even a genuine confession.

I recently advised on whether to use social media to make a witness appeal for a high profile case – my advice was to be very clear about what outcomes were expected, and be careful about allowing people to post up on a Facebook page or similar. I also suggested that the demographic of likely witnesses should be considered, and adequate resources put in place to sift through the replies as they come in. In many ways the process is similar to that which an SIO goes through when considering any press release or media briefing.

My final piece of advice was to use a pre-existing account where possible, that people already had trust and confidence in – creating a new account will usually only work for the most high profile cases. If you want significant numbers of people to see and act on a social media request for witnesses, then using an account that already has a reasonable number of followers is the way forward. Of course, this means that you need to start now, and not wait until the major incident occurs…

This post was previously published on Partrdigej’s blog.

Related posts:

Using Twitter Hashtags for Emergency Management by Scott Mills

Seizing the Virtual Scene by Lauri Stevens

West Midlands (UK) Police: Twitter on the Frontline by Mark Payne

Previous posts from the Social Media Handbook Series:

Part 1: What Social Media networks should I use?

Part 2: How do I get followers / friends ???

Part 3: Policies / Strategies / Guidance??

Part 4: Ten things to have on your page to drive up interest??

Part 5: What to do when things go wrong

Part 6: We don’t do that here

Part 7: Basic Guides – Twitter and Flick’r

Part 8: Connect it all together

Part 9: Talk to local people

Part 10: Operational Uses

Justin Partridge

Justin Partridge is a senior manager for Lincolnshire Police in England. He also works on Local Policing and Partnerships for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Justin Partridge has worked in the public sector since leaving university, and for the police since 2003. After being one of only three non-sworn staff selected for the prestigious Police Strategic Command Course (for those who aspire to the most senior posts in UK policing), he started working on the national Local Policing and Partnerships area with chief officers from across the UK, and with partners from the Home Office, NPIA, APA and elsewhere.

Justin is passionate about making a difference to people, and see social media and new technologies having a major role in this – especially in policing and the wider public sector. He blogs on a variety of issues, predominantly around police and technology, and can be found on Twitter talking about much the same.

Collier County S.O. Reaches Community With CCSO2go iPhone App

The Collier County (FL) Sheriffs Office rolled out its new iPhone app CCSO2go last month. At first blush this may not seem like that big of a deal, after all at the time of this blog post there are 377,555 apps available for the iPhone. But, the new CCSO2go iPhone app is a big deal in terms of how the Collier County S.O. is connecting with their customers/community.

law enforcement iphone applaw enforcement iphone app

The CCSO2go iPhone app has a simple user interface that provides users a wealth of relevant information. The basic navigation tabs are at the bottom of the application and consist of news, traffic, arrests, social, and more tabs. The tabs are self explanatory in what information they provide, however, the traffic is real time and the arrest reports are updated daily. The more tab consists of opportunities to connect to the CCSO website (regular or mobile) as well as CCSO videos.

Captain Tim Guerrette is mostly responsible for the CCSO2go iPhone app, of course along with Sheriff Rambosk’s support. Both Guerrette and Rambosk understand that connecting with citizens is key to a successful law enforcement agency. Further connecting with citizens where they are at, such as Twitter, Facebook, and yes on the iPhone is critical since the world is becoming more mobile by the minute. Believe it or not there are relatively few official law enforcement agency apps in the iTunes App Store and Android App Market. Law enforcement around the United States and for that fact the World should take note of the CCSO2go iPhone app an see how they can reach out and connect to their communities better with mobile apps (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia, etc). And in the end any mobile application is just part of a greater social media and law enforcement effort to connect with community.

Social Media Quick Tip: Clean Up Your Twitter Following

If you follow a lot more people than follow you back, Twitter won’t allow you to follow more people

There are tens of thousands of third-party applications to help us use Twitter. Hundreds of those are designed specifically to help determine who to unfollow. Why would you want to unfollow someone? Two reasons to unfollow someone are:

1. Because the account is inactive; and

2. Because they’re not following you.

It’s good to keep your following well-maintained. If you follow a lot more people than follow you back, Twitter will not allow you to follow more people. Additionally, in case it matters to you, on Twitter, it’s not considered good form. Although there are many tools to help with this, here are two I use often:

1. Untweeps.com: This handy little tool allows you to sign in with your Twitter account and see the people you follow who haven’t tweeted in months. You can select how many days it’s been and then select who to unfollow.

2. JustUnfollow.com: Sign in with your Twitter credentials. The next screen allows you to decide if you want to view unfollowers (those you follow who don’t follow you) or fans (those who follow you who you don’t follow). Both are good to take a look at and decide for yourself if you’d like to make adjustments.

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

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