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When Police Chiefs (Leaders) Blog!

As a patrolman while working at the Tampa P.D. I only had contact with the Chief when I was awarded the “Officer of the Month” honor and when I was medically retired. Tampa P.D. is a fairly large department so contact with executive staff members may be less than officers realize at medium to smaller law enforcement agencies. Probably unless you are in a very small department you do not have much contact with the Chief or executive leadership unless you work with them directly or have been disciplined more than once. The idea of direct contact with Chief’s or executive leadership on an informal yet professional forum in my opinion may pay big dividends to law enforcement agencies. Having the opportunity to speak with the Chief or an executive leader to express ideas, thoughts, best practices, regarding work topics is a huge opportunity to hear from the employee who is engaged in the day to day operations of the business.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is on the forefront of blogging and in particular the US Army who has 22 different blogs. The US Army is massive, but the learning lesson here is leadership is having conversations with their subordinates in a less formal, yet professional manner and it has been successful. While participating in the SMILE Conference Jack Holt, Sr. Stategist for New/Emerging Media for the DoD stated “Generals felt they got more honest answers from the field troops via the blog than through in person visits.” This is very important for leaders to realize. A passing conversation with a troop, or a roll call visit probably is not as personable or scalable as interacting with employees through a blog. The DoD is engaging their employees and communicating with them via blogs, which can have positive impact on: 1) Communication 2) Morale 3) Problem solving 4) Decreased costs and so on.

When Chief’s or senior leaders blog I think they will soon realize the value of doing so. A blog can be created rather easily and learning to blog can be considered a part of communication, not a new unknown activity.

A Dutch perspective on #tacop

On August 4th this year Mike Ellis, from ECN, (@ EmergCommNetwrk) with the assistance of Lauri Stevens, from LAwS Communications (@Lawscomm), started a new action on Twitter, with the aim: to thank the cops for their work and service, so we can safely move around the streets. They christened the action to “thank-A-cop-thursday” . A particularly valuable initiative and certainly can be considered now as a “worldwide” twitter activity.

The 1st thank-a-cop-thursday was an instant success in the states. The initiative was also taken up in Great Britain and Canada. And the Netherlands couldn’t stay behind, so here too the initiative was picked up from very first day. From various sides Twitter using cops were thanked for their efforts.

A few weeks after it started (particularly in the U.S.), it has become an accepted term. We Dutch are considered to be down to earth and wondered “Is that now every Thursday?”. “Is it really necessary to do that every Thursday” were some of the reactions I got from other tweeps. Apparently not all of us think it’s needed. I notice that there has been a reduction in the number #tacop tweets from Dutch tweeps.

Together we could turn it into as much as a phenomenon as #followfriday. While there are many tweeps who agree with that, “thank-a-cop-thursday” stays a bit behind. That is unfortunate because it is a very easy and beautiful public friendly action.

Aggression against the police has been a problem for a long time. But also more generally all workers (including firefighters, EMS). A decent service performance is, unfortunately made increasingly difficult. The Ministry of Interior is also considering how violence against cops can be tackled.

Now this trend has to be stopped and we all can take action to help it stop. It is therefore important that we, – citizens and cops – give a heartfelt attempt to stop the violence, but in an audience-friendly way (no violence against violence). #Tacop does that.

It has been known only for a short time that cops are using Twitter in the Netherlands. Marga van Rijssel (from Dutch Community Police2.0) (on Twitter: @Libel) recently in an article in the Dutch paper “Volkskrant” and here on ConnectedCOPS explained the usefulness of twitter-using cops. The distance to citizens is reduced, for the public sees and reads what the cop in the district is doing. Citizens can very simple interact with him/her and draw questions on Twitter. The work that the cop for the district is doing is transparent. That is pure profit.

In short, let us all work together make sure that cops can do their work, for which they are appointed, simply to carry on their work. We’re only every Thursday here, standing still by their work in very simple way: thanking them for their efforts and service, so we can proceed safely on streets.

Help make “thank-a-cop-thursday” a success worldwide, because Social Media knows no borders, “thank-a-cop-thursday” is an international day. Do you know police officers (whether or not twittering) in your immediate area, put a tweet on Twitter including hashtag #tacop.

This blog is also posted on Dutch community Police2.0. Thanks on behalf of all cops!

Henri Achterkamp

Henri Achterkamp is a Civil Servant for the City of Ede in the Netherlands. He is an Information Manager and Senior-archivist using social media in his work. He can be found at www.linkedin.com/in/henriachterkamp and on Twitter @henriachterkamp

Punching the clock on social media

When a department is considering establishing a presence in Social Media, one of the first questions asked by administrators frequently deals with time commitment. Before answering that question, you need to determine to what extent the department involvement will be: Facebook, Twitter, a blog? As noted by Lauri Stevens in a previous post, The C.O.P.P.S. Social Media Method for Cops, develop a plan with objectives and have a basic strategy. Answer the questions of who, what, where, how, when, and why, and then you can begin to determine what resources your department must devote to create and maintain a successful Social Media program.

The size of your department combined with your objectives and strategy will be the biggest factors in considering the number of personnel devoted to the program and their time commitment. Larger departments may have multiple persons assigned, full-time, to the task of delivering a quality Social Media presence and Public Information program to their communities. Small to midsize agencies will not be able to dedicate full-time positions to their Social Media presence, but entrusting several persons with this as an ancillary duty is probably the best alternative. With a team approach, regular duties do not suffer, coverage to the Social Media effort is spread to more than a “9 to 5” approach and true timely communication can be established. For ANY agency to truly embrace and actively participate in Social Media, the effort must be genuine, responsive, timely, and considerate of the community needs and wants.

Active participation and monitoring is key to a successful program. Pushing information out is only a single element and is not a true participation in Social Media. One-way communication is fine in many circumstances, but limit that to your Nixle presence, crime mapping programs, or information posts on your website. Communication with your community will take time, comments will be slow at first, but once you begin to establish credibility and your community believes that your participation is genuine, the playing field will slowly change for the better.

During start-up talks, my original estimate to my Department was an hour per day devoted to Social Media. At the time, I based that on having simply run our Police Association blog for a year or so and felt, on average, this was a fair assessment. Six months later, I will double my time estimate and say that during my work day, about two hours are dedicated to furthering our Social Media effort. Fifteen minutes, 4-5 times per day, monitoring responses, @replies, various stories pertaining to our City, reviewing local news, are some of the usual tasks. Writing an activity related post, a tip, or similar, may take up to an hour or so; some days a bit less, some days a bit more. The time commitment is not huge for an agency like mine, but every department is different. Arcadia PD is a mid-size, Los Angeles County agency, serving a population of about 55,000. Location, crime activity, population, etc, are all considerations for what it will take to create a successful presence on-line. Captain Mike Parker heads up the Public Information Office, Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and coordinates the Social Media efforts for dozens of stations, bureaus, and service areas for the LASD. Imagine the effort involved with 18,000 budgeted personnel and a service population of over four million people. Large or small, all agencies can become involved.

One key to a successful Social Media strategy for all departments is finding the right people for the job. Find someone with an interest in the program. Interest and dedication also equate to better time management. Social Media has become a hobby for me, leading to the writing and communication being fun. Sitting down to author a post is not labor nor overly time intensive when the author is interested in the topic. I recently read a post on a government watchdog blog that claimed it takes about 4 hours to write and research a 500-word blog post. The article went on to say, “Depending upon an organization’s culture, even 140-character Twitter messages can require substantial amounts of time to craft.” These have not been my experiences. Keep in mind that writing simple blog, Twitter, and Facebook posts designed to communicate and interact with your community are much different than writing articles for a magazine, or even a website such as ConnectedCOPS.net. While accuracy and fact checking are important in any work we produce, most posts and contributions to Social Media take only minutes.

I hope to explore this issue of time and, more specifically, compensation associated with time spent on Social Media management in an upcoming post. This arena is ever changing and evolving, and it is important to discuss and consider current restrictions outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as it applies to Law Enforcement. Can we potentially fall under the Administrative Exemption when it comes to Social Media participation time? Time will tell. Another angle dealing with time commitment deals with use of Social Media in emergency communications. Crisis and emergency communication is a topic that warrants an independent discussion.

Tom Le Veque

Sergeant Tom Le Veque has served with the Arcadia Police Department since 1987, promoting to Sergeant in 1991. Prior to that, Tom was a Police Officer for the City of San Marino Police Department from 1984-1987. Tom has been a driving force behind many of Arcadia’s innovative programs such as Video Parking Enforcement and Neighborhood Speed Watch. Most recently, he has taken the Arcadia Police Department to a new level of community interaction and involvement by developing a web presence with a Department Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Nixle pages. Arcadia is one of the first agencies in Los Angeles County to truly enter and embrace S.M.I.L.E. Sergeant Le Veque sees the value in and enjoys sharing, learning, and interacting via Social Media.

Top Rated iPhone Apps for Cops, and the rest of us- You Will Want These!

Being a retired police officer and and iPhone aficionado I always find myself thinking how apps could have helped me do my job better as a cop. As a police officer you are constantly presented with new situations to have to investigate and hence the need for information. There are also times when communicating documents, evidence, etc would be awesome other than by voice only. First aid is another area that can be taught to police, but ultimately there are so many medical situations a portable reference guide would be great. And what about a mobile “Swiss Army Knife?” Below I showcase 4 Top Rated iPhone Apps for Cops!

Title: Google Mobile Cost: FREE Category: Reference Developer: Google

iphone app reviews

Probably one of the best tools a cop could have on their mobile phone is Google Mobile. You can search by voice, type in your desired search parameters and experience the very best search results on earth. Specifically, these results are targeted geographically, which is even more relevant for police. There are additionally, a bunch of Google services in the app like Gmail, Google Docs, etc..

All in 1 ToolKit ProCost: $0.99 Category: Business Developer: Kdan Mobile Software

iphone app reviews

An application that is super useful now as it would be for any road warrior (cops included) is the All In 1 Tool Kit Pro. There are 31 different single programs in one combined application. Spell checker, unit converter, language translator, zip code finder, tip calculator, find my location, and best of all “police sound” complete with blue and red flashing lights (awesome). There is plenty more to this tool too numerous to list in this review.

Pocket Scanner – Documents on the go Cost: $0.99 Category: Business Developer: Kdan Mobile Software

iphone app reviews


Communicating information, specifically documents on the fly can be a critical part of a law enforcement investigation. This application allows you to take images off your current from your phones library or from a new image capture. You can enhance your images, lock them, and email them effortlessly. There is much more to this mobile tool than meets the eye and that has been explained in this review. A must have for field officers who stumble upon a document intensive investigation or just want to compare a drivers license.

Title: SAS Survival Guide Cost: $6.99 Category: Lifestyle Developer: Trellisys.net

iphone app reviews

The SAS Survival Guide application is one of the best tools you can have on your smartphone as a first responder. There are multiple features in this application specifically for critical incidents such as terrorism that may occur in urban areas. While not all law enforcement officers work in urban areas is also information regarding rural areas. The most important part of this application is the first aid information. There is a tremendous amount of first aid information for first responders.

These are but a few Top Rated iPhone Apps that you will find in the iTunes Store. CM

Check out all CrazyMikesapps articles at http://www.crazymikesapps.com

Engaging with citizens on Twitter @SanRafaelPolice

Dan Fink

In my efforts to connect with the community, I have always been looking to use modern technology. In 1995 while working as a civilian for the Santa Rosa (Ca) Police Department, I, along with one of their Detectives, started their first web page. Yes, 1995, when cell phones were as big as your arm and computers still used the 5 ¼ floppy disc. So back to modern day (March 2009)……I was sitting at my house on my day off, thinking about work when I started looking into Twitter. I really had no idea what it was because I was into Facebook and just didn’t understand it.

I started looking at Twitter and was amazed at the amount of information that was on the site. Being a sports and news junkie, I sat there for hours reading all kinds of stuff. Finally, I did a search for law enforcement and was impressed that there were so many police and sheriff department pages as well. So I did what every good Lieutenant should do, which is to ask his boss if we could join the ranks of Twitter, right??? Wrong!! I have always been one of those people like to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. Besides for all you cops out there, you know if I asked, we would form a committee to discuss it and then maybe six months later we would get the green light but with too many restrictions. So anyway, I just did it. I am lucky in my position that my Captains and Chief also trust me to deliver our message to the public in whatever form I deem necessary.

So I created the @sanrafaelpolice twitter page and off I went. I learned very quickly that two way communications was the best way to get the page going. That number that shows how many followers you have is like a drug. I needed it to keep going up and found that when I followed someone’s page, they actually followed me back. I searched for businesses in my local area as well as other law enforcement sites and began to follow them. I was still thirsty for more information about how other departments were using Twitter, so I used the Direct Message (DM) and the “@” feature in an attempt to contact them but I was ignored. I never received any two way communication from any of my brothers and sisters in blue (or tan and green). Now cops are suspicious people, it is what keeps us alive but in the social networking environment, it is important to trust a little. I am not sure if the departments ever check their DM’s or the @ button but it is a very important feature on Twitter.

I began to get positive feedback from the Twitter community and people were telling me that I was using Twitter the way it was meant to be used. They meant that I was engaging the public by being a regular person. If you asked me a question, I would answer it. I am not afraid to be funny if the occasion calls for it. I am actively asking my own questions and not waiting for people to contact me. The piece to this puzzle that I had to be mindful of is that we needed to maintain our level of professionalism, so our department and city would not be cast in a negative light. I was cautiously taking risks but always felt like I whatever I wrote, I would put myself in the shoes of a City Council member and think to myself if I was crossing the line.

Lastly, the final advice I have to the law enforcement community is attend a local tweet-up whenever possible. I will admit that my co-workers relentlessly teased me when I told them that I was cutting out of work a little early to attend a tweet-up. When I went to my first tweet-up, I was amazed that all these people that I follow on Twitter aren’t 16 year old kids, these are all people around my age (I’m 39) who are business people in the community. For me, it was like attending a neighborhood meeting. I asked and answered questions and realized that everyday I log on to Twitter and post something or answer a question, I am holding a virtual neighborhood meeting. That is an invaluable way to not only connect with your community but legitimately help them by answering questions that they might feel strange about calling the police department and asking.

So in closing to all you law enforcement agencies who either have a Twitter page in name only and don’t tweet, DM, or answer questions or all the agencies who think this is a passing phase, or to all the agencies who are too nervous to have a Twitter page, I am here to tell you to take a chance. Your community will respond in a positive way and you will show them just how cutting edge your agency is!

Lieutenant Dan Fink has been with the City of San Rafael since 1997. He worked in the uniformed patrol division until 2001 and was also a Field Training Officer. In 2001, he was selected to be the Financial Crimes Detective and investigated fraud, forgery, identity theft, and computer crimes. In 2003, Dan was promoted to the position of Police Corporal and was assigned to the patrol division. Dan worked as a street supervisor in patrol until he was selected to be the Training Manager in 2005. In 2006, he was promoted to Police Sergeant and worked in the patrol division until he was eventually assigned to the Directed Patrol Unit (DPU). In DPU, Dan and his team worked primarily in plain clothes and undercover on narcotics, vice, and gang cases. In 2009, he was promoted to Police Lieutenant and currently manages the Investigations, Youth Services, and Community Policing sections. Lieutenant Fink holds a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership.

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