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Social Media Quick Tip: Organize Your Twitter Stream

Put neighboring law enforcement agencies & your agency’s tweeting officers on separate lists

Creating lists on Twitter is a good way to prevent being overwhelmed with the tweets of everybody you follow.

For some time now, Twitter has offered users the ability to create lists of Twitter accounts. Every user can make up to 20 lists. On your Twitter page, find the drop-down menu that says “lists.” It’s not difficult to figure out how to use the list feature from there.


You might like to put neighboring law enforcement agencies on a list, your agency’s tweeting officers on another list, social media authorities on another, local media on another, and so on. If you’re familiar with Tweetdeck or HootSuite, you can then import those lists creating a separate stream for each, and monitor them with the attention to each you feel is appropriate. It’s a good way to not get overwhelmed with the tweets of everybody you follow.

The cool thing about lists is that you can keep them private. If you create a private list, people on it don’t know they’re on it. This is useful if you want to keep an eye on some people without them knowing it. Add to that, you can put Twitter accounts on a list whether you’re following them or not. This way, you can follow tweets of a select group of people without them knowing the cops are on their tail, twitterly speaking.

Also of note: You can follow lists others have created the same way you can create and follow your own lists.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

The iPIO?

Having only had my new iPad 2 for a few months, I am certainly no expert on all of the things you can do with it. To be honest, I thought this thing would be just a cool, fun toy to play with when I ordered it. However, it didn’t take long to realize the many different ways I could use it for my work and how my friends in the Police Public Information Office could benefit from having an iPad to help them get their job done quickly and efficiently.

Since it’s what I have, this article will focus on the iPad 2.


First of all, the iPad can definitely be used as a toy as there are games galore out there for it. But, there are equally as many serious tools available. As of March 15, 2011, there were over 65,000 apps or applications already available for the iPad and iPad 2. In addition, you can run many iPhone apps on it too and there are over 100,000 apps for it.

One of the most powerful features of the iPad is it’s connectivity to the Internet. You can get an iPad that connects via just Wi-Fi or spend a bit more and and get a unit with Wi-Fi and 3G cell connection. If you go with the Wi-Fi only iPad and already have a smartphone, like an I-Phone, you could always use your phone as a “tether” to serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot or portable Internet connection for your iPad. Tethering means you connect to the Internet via your phone and then you connect your iPad to your phone wirelessly, by Bluetooth, or via a cable. If you want to use tethering via your phone, be sure you have an Internet service plan on your phone that allows for tethering.

Once you have an iPad and an Internet connection, you are ready to rock the web and inform your citizens of what’s going on in their community and with their police department. Here are some things you can do without downloading even a single app.

  • Write press releases
  • Send and receive email
  • Take pictures
  • Shoot low resolution video
  • Search the Internet
  • Take notes
  • Map locations
  • Watch videos
  • Post to Social Media sites
  • Read, watch and listen to how the media is reporting about your department
    and more all while in the office or out at a scene.

Can you imagine how much time having this tool would save your PIO by being able to send out information and monitor the press directly from the scene?


Since there is SO much to talk about regarding apps, we’ll cover these AND some of the cool accessories for the I-Pad next week. In the mean time, if your department uses an iPad already, please share your experiences below and include what apps you are using as well.

Social Media Handbook for Police: Part 10

Welcome to the the next installment 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 10: Operational Use

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.

I have already blogged about how better engagement leads to operational outcomes, so won’t repeat that here. This post is all about using social media in public order.

Public Order

Policing of public order is changing rapidly. Demonstrators have become aware of the power of organising marches and protests over the internet, and the rise of mobile social media such as Twitter on smartphones has meant that protests can be organised almost spontaneously, and without a clear leadership or organising group. This obviously causes difficulties for policing – in the UK forces are used to negotiating with groups about marches and protests, agreeing routes and locations, and using information on routes, numbers etc to plan for the degree of policing required in advance.

Social media has also been used by protestors to push false information in order to stir up trouble. Tweets from the English Defence League (a far right group) have included ones alleging that their supporters have been attacked by Muslims, and asking for people to come and support their protest.

Effective use of social media by police:

  1. Monitors the arrangements for a protest in advance. Most marches are organised via a Facebook page, and / or using a Twitter hashtag (a name preceded by a #). These are open and public, and can be an excellent source of intelligence.
  2. Engages with the organisers in advance. Again the open nature of Facebook and Twitter means that the police can talk to people who are interested in the protest, and explain why certain actions and routes may not be possible, and the actions that police will take. Early engagement is probably the area where most can be gained. As with all social media engagement it needs to be a two way conversation, however.
  3. Promotes messages via the hashtag and facebook page on the day of the protest. These can be about the route, police tactics, safety messages, and engaging with protestors in a positive way where they are within the law. Where arrests or other tactics are needed, then police forces should explain what has happened and why, to crush rumours. Which brings me to…
  4. puts the record straight. In the above example of protesters being attacked by Muslims, the police response was straightforward – there have been no attacks, and no one is injured.
  5. creates a reason to be followed. As with all social media, simply regurgitating press releases is dull – a good police presence informs, communicates, discusses and (where appropriate) amuses. Provide an insight into policing of protest, and people will follow you. Don’t be afraid to ask people to follow you either – if you use the hashtag and are providing good information, then people will.

A few things to remember

  • Use the hashtag – people will be following or searching for this, and will automtaically pick up police tweets that use it, whether they follow you or not.
  • Anything you can do they can do better – modern technology is cheap and ubiquitous, and the public are not limited by procurement and ICT department rules. Assume that everything you do is being videoed, edited and uploaded to the internet as you do it, and you will probably be correct.

Photo: Crowd – Image via Flick’r by DavidMartynHunt

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

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.

Defrosting Cold Cases: A Social Media Force Multiplier

Social Media participation not only allows engagement within, but also well beyond your community and may offer benefits not readily available in times past.  A blog devoted primarily to “cold case” investigations reached out and engaged with the Arcadia Police Department, highlighting the unsolved 2007 Jason Wei murder case in March of this year.  Defrosting Cold Cases (DCC) is the name of this blog, developed and managed by an east coast lawyer who is known as @Vidocq_CC on Twitter.  “My work got me in touch with many police departments and those collaborations resulted in this website. I have yet to find a police department that is not underfunded, not understaffed, or not overworked. Often, I heard officers say that they wished that they had time to build a website for their cold cases…”

Our Department had teamed up with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, gathering a $20,000 reward in this case which was previously promoted through conventional media.  Having a web presence like DCC highlight the case, and by using Social Media platforms, only multiplies our efforts to bring awareness to the Wei case.  There are virtually no limits to potential exposure on the Internet and this is a great example of using Social Media as a force multiplier.

DCC is no stranger to collaboration efforts, as shown on their website.  DCC benefits from the participation of NYPD Detective Sergeant Joe Giacalone who heads up the Bronx Cold Case Squad.  Joe is active on the LexisNexis Investigators Network and hosts the Cold Case Squad Blog.  DCC even reaches out globally, inviting UK fingerprint expert, Richard Case, to participate and offer additional expertise at the table.  Penn State University has also contributed, offering assistance on a 1975 Florida cold case.

Honoring National Police Week, DCC recently ran a series of posts featuring some “ very alive” members of Law Enforcement that contribute to the conversation via Social Media, to include Captain Mike Parker, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (CA), retired Suffolk County Police Department (NY) veteran Kathleen Ryan, Arizona Detective Suzy Ivy, Detective Sergeant Joe Giacalone, New York Police Department (NY), and Sergeant Tom Le Veque, Arcadia Police Department (CA).  DCC also posted information on unsolved line of duty deaths, like that of the killing of Police Officer Robert Tatman, Champaign, IL, who was murdered in 1967.

For those of you who participate on Twitter, DCC and @Vidocq_CC host a frequent chat on Twitter, Fridays, noon to 1:00 p.m. EST, using the hashtag of #CClivechat.  You can find various representation from folks that have an interest in law enforcement, crime, criminology, cold case investigation, writers, educators, lawyers, and more.  Take a look at Defrosting Cold Cases and see if you, too, can take advantage of this type of force multiplier via Social Media.

Social Media Quick Tip: Keep Your Lat/Long to Yourself

Don’t let geolocation coordinates undermine your own safety

Geolocation coordinates can help you in an investigation, but they can also put your safety at risk. Turn off geolocation functions on your computers and smartphones. Photo iStock

Geolocation coordinates are everywhere in social networking these days. If you’re an investigator, you’ve probably figured out how useful such data can be to link someone to a time and a place.

Remember: Your own geolocation data can also be used to undermine your own safety. To help keep yourself, your family and officers at your department safe, do the following:

1. Turn off geolocation on your smartphones–on the phone itself and within the camera function. On a Blackberry, click Menu and then Turn Off GPS. On an iPhone go to Settings, then General. On an Android, from within the camera application, go to Location and Security and Disable GPS.

2. Turn geolocation off within the mobile apps installed on your smartphone as appropriate.

3. Turn geolocation off on social networks you access from a computer or tablet, such as an iPad.

4. Any digital photograph you take can have lat and long embedded. Digital cameras, especially late models, are likely to store this data with every image. If you take a photo of your children and post that photo online, you’ve just potentially told people where to find your kids.

5. Be mindful of all of the above advice if you play FourSquare or use Facebook Places.

Finally, and perhaps most important, have a sit-down with your kids and fellow officers, and make sure they understand these risks, as well.

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

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